How to run a successful farm in early Scottsdale

Over the Christmas break from school back in 1942, my parents had just begun farming the 20 acres they owned on the southeastern corner of Miller and Indian School roads, a stone’s throw from downtown Scottsdale.

They had purchased the land with the intent of turning it into a working dairy and poultry farm.

One of the first things we needed was a brooder house, a building that could shelter up to 500 baby chicks. With the approach of spring, we needed the brooder house right away if we were going to raise laying hens old enough to produce eggs by summer. Later on, we built hen houses, a milking barn, a feed house and a shop area.

Jack and Lillian Stewart were our neighbors. They lived across the street, north of Indian School Road.

Although they were well along in years, they were active professionals. They knew farming and ranching. As such, it came as no surprise when Jack offered to help build our first brooder house.

We began by drawing a simple plan for a building measuring 12 feet wide by 12 feet long. It had a pitched gable roof, a door facing east, and two sets of life-up plastic windows looking south.

We built the house on 3-by-12-inch wooden skids. That way, if the building ended up in the wrong place, we could use our tractor to pull it where it needed to go. All of this construction occurred before the city required building permits.

My dad purchased the necessary building supplies at the Hayes Lumber Yard. It stood on the east side of Scottsdale Road where the Pink Pony restaurant operated for many years.

Stewart didn’t use power tools. We didn’t either. So we sawed all of the wooden planks by hand.

First, we put down the flat runners, as well as the bracing that held them together. Then we nailed down the tongue-and-groove pine floor.

Next, we framed the 2-by-4 walls and stood them up. The roof rafters and sheeting were nailed to the walls, and wooden shingles made up the finished roof. Lastly, we covered the outside of the exposed stud wall with wooden siding.

Except for painting, we finished the brooder house in a single day.

Building our family’s first brooder house was my first real construction experience. It was so much fun that a week later my dad decided it might be wise to have two brooder houses.

We built the second house just like the first one, and when we were done, we strung an electric line from our home to both buildings.

In late January 1943, we received 500 day-old leghorn chicks from a fellow named George Haws, who lived in Lehi just north of Mesa.

We watched those chicks religiously, every hour for the first few days and then closely thereafter until they feathered out and could be moved from their brooder house to a new 40-by-80-foot hen house that my folks had built.

We brooded a second group of 500 chicks as soon as the first 500 were safely nesting in their larger home. By the end of 1943, we had a total of 1,000 pullets (young hens) ready to lay eggs.

Eventually, our poultry operation included 2,000 laying hens and several hundred fryers.

Paul Messinger was raised in Scottsdale and founded Messinger Mortuaries in 1959. Reach him at 480-860-2300 or 480-945-9521.

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