A visit by a Lohmann Party and Chunky-Fairbairn executives to the Fairbairn Chicpak factory in Carlisle
Front: Mr G. B. Fairbairn (son of founder), Dr W. Hartman, Mr J. Nixon-Wiley, Herr H. Lohmann, Herr K. Lohmann, Mr M. Mahaffey. Second row: Herr Figge, Dr H. Missler, Mr Cowan. Third row: Mr C. Fisher, Mr T.E. Park, Dr G. Nagel, Mr S. Wiley. Back: Mr A.R. McGhee, Mr J. Archibald, Mr I.D. Gibbs.

E.F. Fairbairn Ltd was one of five (Sterling, Chunky Chicks (Nichols), Spinks, Sykes and Fairbairn) breeding organisations that eventually contributed to the group that comprised Ross Poultry Ltd and later Ross Breeders. E.F. Fairbairn Ltd poultry business was started in the 1928 by Mr Edward Frederick Fairbairn in Carlisle, Cumberland, England. Mr Fairbairn was a pioneer in the production of large numbers of day-old chicks using large cabinet incubators. He introduced to Great Britain the production and sale of the Secura Cabinet Incubator and founded the specialist day-old chick production company. Mr Fairbairn was the grandson of the Mr E.F. Fairbairn who started a seed business at Edentown in Carlisle in 1852. The Fairbairn family had a general farm at Monkcastle, Southwaite, Cumbria. Mrs Fairbairn had an interest in poultry was looking for a larger incubator than the flat top type commonly available. At lunch one day Mr E.F. Fairbairn’s father said he had heard of a Belgium incubator that was different in the way it controlled temperature; air was circulated and operated at just under 100˚F, whereas the flat top incubators operated at a higher temperature, around 103-105˚F. It was produced by a man called Joseph Behaeghe. An incubator of about 1000 egg capacity was duly purchased and it worked very well. Edward Fairbairn looked at the increasing trade in poultry and decided to invest in incubators and start selling them to poultry farmers. He arranged with Behaeghe to make them under licence and started the Secura Incubator Company. Initially, Pollards, a shopfitters business in Enfield, London made the incubators, using teak for the framing. Eventually a factory was set up in Carlisle. Soon there followed a hatchery in Carlisle and the business grew rapidly. And it kept growing until there were branches from Aberdeen to Exeter and in Northern Ireland. Another businesses started around chick sexing (a sexing school operated in Carlisle), growing day-old chicks to three weeks, egg grading a packing, and chicken processing. In June 1953 the Fairbairn group of Companies came under the control of E.F. Fairbairn, Holdings, Ltd with the issue of 1.0m shares at a value of 5 shillings. The issue was heavily over-subscribed at 5s6d and by December they were worth 8s. The company’s main trade in laying hens was the sale of purebreds, crossbreds and sex-linked crossbreds as day-olds or three week old pullets. In the late 1950’s the company took a decision to go into breeding and hired a breeding team lead by Mr Archie McGhee and supported by Alan Gristwood, Colin Fisher and Jim Colin. A number of laying hen lines were purchased on the open market and started breeding. By 1960 they were marketing four “Hy-Cross” layers, F6 (brown eggs), F8 (tinted eggs), F9 (white eggs) and F11 (tinted eggs), and had quick success in sales. Broiler breeding was established and there were six different products available, however, however the initial broilers had a few black feathers and were less attractive than other stocks on the market although their performance was as good as the Chunky Chick. In 1961 Chunky Chick (Nichols) Ltd and Fairbairn merged; Mr George F. Fairbairn son of the founder was a co-director at the time. The independent poultry business, then as E.F. Fairbairn, Holdings, Ltd was concluded in 1962 when the Ross Group bought it for £2.0m.