Melissahof is the farm – “hof” is German for farm – of Melissa Hemken. Living near Lander, Melissa discovered that the rural expansiveness of Wyoming hindered the mail shipment of healthy day-old chicks. Melissahof Hatchery was established after Melissa chased down a postal delivery truck at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning to rescue a mail order of chicks that had been in transit for 83 hours – some were, unfortunately, dead on arrival. Chicks absorb the yolk of the egg right before hatch, and can subsist on it only for 72 hours. Then, they require water and feed. The truck driver was happy to see Melissa, because he regularly delivers boxes of silent, expired chicks on his rounds across Wyoming.
Recognizing that other Wyoming folks also need healthy chicks for their flocks, Melissa raises dual-purpose heavy breed poultry from which to hatch purebred chicks. The chosen heritage breeds produce both eggs and meat, and have plumage and small combs suitable to cold winters.
When eggs are hatched into chicks, there is a 50/50 gender split. Every newly hatched laying hen has a brother! Most customers purchase the female chicks – called pullets. Melissa raises the rooster chicks, nicknamed the “McNuggets,” on pasture.
The McNuggets and the breeding poultry flocks live in mobile coops with moveable pens of electric net fencing to facilitate their frequent rotation to fresh irrigated pasture behind where the cattle have grazed. The poultry forage for insects, spread out the cowpies through their scratching, eat food waste from local restaurants, and are supplemented on a mix of locally grown corn, oat and barley feed.
Melissa considers the ecosystem and entire lifecycle of her poultry in her holistic farm management. The eggs from the breeding hens are set in the incubator to hatch into chicks or sold as nutrient-rich table eggs. The pullets, healthy and stress-free from avoiding out-of-state shipment, thrive in egg-laying flocks across Wyoming. The rooster chicks, the McNuggets, happily run the pasture until they “meat” their destiny as flavorful, nutritious food.
In this way, Melissahof produces hearty poultry and holistic eats.