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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Heartland Hatchery: 50 years of practice makes perfect

While most 6 year olds might rather have been outside playing, in the early 1970's Alan Nieder instead chose to work alongside his mother gathering and selling eggs from their family farm near Amsterdam, Mo. 

Their primary customer was Grain Belt Hatchery in Windsor, Mo. and when Alan was a bit older he got to visit the hatchery and realized what he was going to do with his life- someday operate his own hatchery business

'Someday' came fairly quickly. Throughout his young adult years, Nieder continually worked to perfect his trade. This included figuring out what breeds are most popular; what special considerations are needed to raise them; determining sex of baby chicks; expected lifetimes; laying rates; and a lot more. 

As his business grew, naturally there was need for expansion that included building a new, larger facility and installing a high quality incubator. He also formed more relationships with local flock owners to gain a steady supply of high quality eggs. By the mid 1990's, Alan had it down to a science and all was going well.
But there was one problem- getting days old chicks to far away buyers in an efficient, safe manner. The only viable option was mailing them via the U.S. Postal Service. Chicks were put in ventilated cardboard boxes with postage attached and they would be magically transitioned to another zip code. It's a service that is still available today and works pretty well; unless the chicks get cold or a there's delay in delivery- either of which can spell disaster.

Or a disaster of another type like September 11th, 2001. Following the attacks of that day, Alan was unable to ship chicks for a few weeks and this was an unforeseen interruption of business... he wondered is there was a better way to get them to customers?

In the meantime Alan's primary customer was a hardware store in Nixa, Mo and peeps were regularly mailed to the owner to sell along with his other wares. Eventually, the owner possibly grew tired of managing the chicks and asked Alan if he would travel to the store with a variety of chicks to sell on an advertised day... Alan agreed and hence, the idea of 'mobile chick days' was hatched. 

With this new marketing idea in mind, he began contacting hardware, farm and feed stores all around the region to promote chick days... and store owners were very receptive to it. In short order, Alan was scheduled for a Friday or Saturday in say, Kearney Mo. or Emporia Ks. or Nixa Mo. New locations were added almost daily.

In doing sales using this new method, he discovered there is added customer service when being face to face with customers- he knows his stock and can give the best advice for feeding and care. Plus they can easily contact him after the sale for additional questions or in many cases, to purchase more birds.

Today Heartland Hatchery is as busy as ever hatching around 100,000 birds a year. Interestingly, the pandemic has been cause of an uptick in business and while Covid seems to be retreating, sales are still strong. In fact, Alan has been joined by his son Miles in the mobile chick days business as most every Friday and Saturday, each head in opposite directions to make sales throughout Kansas and Missouri, logging thousands of miles along the way.

Back home, improvements are ongoing. Most recently, an addition to the hatchery was completed that now offers retail space where customers can come and buy each Thursday or after hours on other days. More space means better variety, too. Heartland Hatchery now offers over 35 types including turkens, layers, fancy & rare, bantys, silkies, ducklings, turkeys, guineas and new this year, goslings. 

In closing, Alan Neider has become a well known poultry specialist and he receives calls regularly. Even during this interview his phone rang several times and he dutifully picked up, as any good businessman should. Not one question went unanswered, either from us or the callers; a sure sign that he fully understands every aspect of his business.

All of which is the result of over 50 years of doing it- practice certainly does make perfect.

Some fun Heartland Hatchery YouTube videos:

Heartland Hatchery
9593 NW County Road 8002
Amsterdam, Mo 64723
Call 660-424-0408