The hatchery and headquarters of Chunky Chicks Ltd and later that of Ross Breeders Ltd

Abridged and edited from the story of “Fenton Barns and associate farms” by Rupert Chalmers-Watson 1923-1973.

“In 1948 Rupert Chalmers-Watson attended the World Poultry Congress in Copenhagen and there met Jim Coleman of Nichols Poultry Breeding Farms who was at the time one of the outstanding breeders of meat type chickens. Through his story of “Future Potential” a friendship was formed which was to prove invaluable. In Autumn of that year a small parcel arrived from Denmark containing hatching egg of his new strains for us to test. These were multiplied and looked at several interested parties including Geoffrey Sykes who had just returned from a Nuffield Scholarship tour of the USA Poultry Industry. He was campaigning for the development of a broiler industry in Britain and his intervention at that time was beneficial. A year later we established our our first two flock farmers in East Lothian. The birds did very well, far in advance of the Light Sussex and other meat-type crosses that were being produced in Britain at the time. My brother, Irvine, Alan Stewart and I approached Danny B Marshall who had a small poultry farm at Fairview, Ratho west of Edinburgh. His Managing Director, Archie McGee was a geneticist, and after they had tested our new birds, both were very impressed with the possibilities. We began talking with Danny Marshall about setting up a new company to produce these new strains of broilers. In 1956 we incorporated the new company Chunky Chicks (Nichols) Ltd with myself as Chairman and an office Registered in Edinburgh. In 1958 Jim Coleman joined the Board of Directors which then included Alan Stewart, David Roberts, as Manager, R. Wilson, as Secretary, Danny Marshall, Irvine Chalmers-Watson, and John Nixon Wiley with Rupert Chalmers-Watson as Chairman. After a difficult start and loss in the first year, profits began to emerge and the business prospered to a remarkable extent. Danny Marshall purchased for the company a piece of land at Newbridge, adjacent to his packing station. The company was making sufficient money to build a hatchery and head office that was at the time the most outstanding in Britain. In 1963 the business was truly subsstantial. Other companies were looking our success and we joined togeter with E.F. Fairbairn Ltd of Carlisle which already had a public quotation. I then became Vice-Chairman of Fairbairn and John Wiley became Financial Director. The company florished and we were taken over by the Ross Group of Grimsby and were under the banner of “Sterling Poultry Products”. The Ross Group became part of Imperial Tobacco (Foods Division). Danny Marshall decided to withdraw from the company and began to start his own remarkable development under the name of D.B. Marshall Ltd. He kept the Trade Mark “Chunky Chicks” for the sale of oven-ready chickens.”