The boat canal at Ocean View
The official beginning of the broiler industry is officially credited to Mrs Cecile Steele of Ocean View, Delaware. Ocean View is a small village on the southern side of Indian River Bay, and was the location where George Ellis began his broiler operation. At the beginning of the 20th Century many farmers in the U.S.A grew chickens in relatively small numbers to sell as broilers. In the 1920’s many laying hens were killed by fowl or range paralysis. Leghorns were the main breed in the Delmarva Peninsula and were particularly susceptible to the disease. The laying flocks around Ocean View were hardest hit by the epidemic. However, the disease took more than 12 weeks before it affected the growing layers. The prospect of making money from growing broilers which at that time were sold between 16 and 18 weeks offered a solution to those farmers whose laying flocks were wiped out by fowl paralysis.
The salt water inlets of Indian River Bay changed frequently as storms opened a new inlet or an old one silted up. Between 1911 and 1933 the bay was closed entirely seven times preventing various types of fish from entering the Bay and changing the salinity of the bay water decimating marine life. The closure in 1925 was particularly catastrophic to the crabs and shellfish and 100’s of part-time watermen lost their jobs. Many turned to broiler growing after Mrs Steele and other changed the growing practices.