At the beginning of every day, you can find Paige Watson in one of her six chicken houses, checking on her birds. “It’s kind of like raising children,” Paige says.
Raising chickens is in Paige’s blood. She was born into a “farm family,” and her father, Dr. Perry Mobley, has four chicken houses of his own just up the road from Paige. But even with her experience, owning her own farm is a relatively new development for Paige.
In 2015, Paige made the decision to quit her job teaching high school so she could stay home with her son who has special needs. Paige says, “I wanted chicken houses for years and just wasn’t sure how to go about getting them. I started pursuing it and asking questions, and I had been out of the classroom for about six months when I was approved by Wayne Farms to get my chicken houses.”
Paige begins — and ends — every day with her chickens. She does have one employee who helps on weekdays, but she is solely responsible for six mega houses holding 48,000 chickens apiece. Chickens are delivered straight from a hatchery to Paige’s houses, where they live for about 40 days.
When she walks into the chicken houses each morning, Paige is checking on the birds. She says, “I am so in tune with the birds so I can make sure they are 100% comfortable. People laugh at me when I say that, but I want them to be happy. And in order to do that, I have to be in those houses.”
She checks their feed lines and water lines, making sure everything is at an optimal height and level. She makes sure there are no problems and keeps an eye out for sick birds.
Then she checks on the equipment, making sure all the fans are running and there are no motor problems. Her main priority, other than the birds themselves, is checking the controllers.
The environment in the chicken houses is controlled by advanced computer systems that ensure the birds are comfortable. The controllers regulate each day based on the chicken house atmosphere and the birds’ sizes and ages. Paige sees this as her control center to make sure everything is where it should be to keep her chickens developing as they should.
Paige is also evaluating other factors, such as outside temperature and total comfort in the house. She adjusts the humidity and air flow as needed. She repeats this process for each house.
After the six houses have been walked, she checks on the rest of the farm and spends the rest of her day in and out of the houses. She says the more often she is in the houses, the easier it is for her to identify any problems. She is sure to walk each house at least twice each day, often three times, making sure her chickens are comfortable — even at night.
“I go back at night to put them to bed and make sure everything is running smoothly. Just one last check at night to make sure everything is good,” Paige says.
In Paige’s eyes, one of the most important aspects of her role as a chicken farmer is education. “I am on the total opposite end of the spectrum from what I ever went to school for,” says Paige, who has earned her MBA, a master’s in sports and fitness management, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She is constantly reading articles and learning about her chickens. She also benefits from her father’s expertise as both a chicken farmer and a veterinarian. She says Dr. Mobley is “the best daddy in the world who also helps educate me daily.”
Paige is happy she can pass along her family farm heritage to her children. She says it’s provided a really great avenue for connecting with her son, who is non-verbal autistic and loves the farm and chickens. Her eight-year-old daughter is “all girl” but also enjoys helping.
“I really enjoy what I do,” Paige says. “I thoroughly enjoy it. I wish I had done it years and years ago. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s fun to me and something I hope to be able to continue for a long time.”