The family farm: Three generations keep Hickman’s growing

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Hickman’s Egg Ranch Founder Bill Hickman, left, President Glenn Hickman, middle, and Vice President Billy Hickman, right, pose in an under-construction cage-free layer house.

Hickman’s Egg Ranch Founder Bill Hickman, left, President Glenn Hickman, middle, and Vice President Billy Hickman, right, pose in an under-construction cage-free layer house. | Austin Alonzo

Hickman’s Egg Ranch, which started 73 years ago with a backyard flock of hens, is still a family-owned business – and now one of the largest egg farming and distribution operations in the country.

Read the entire report about the history of Hickman’s Egg Ranch exclusively in the April issue of Egg Industry.

Buckeye, Arizona-based Hickman’s has 9.1 million birds in Arizona and Colorado and markets eggs throughout the southwest. The Arizona operation, toured by Egg Industry in February, includes 45 layer houses and 11 pullet houses, a feed mill, an egg products plant producing hard-boiled eggs and liquid egg products, a spent hen rendering plant, fertilizer production facilities, and a highly automated egg packing and distribution center processing about 6 million eggs a day. The company employs 500 direct employees and 270 contract employees.

Bill Hickman – profiled in the September 1981 issue of Egg Industry’s predecessor, Poultry Tribune, as the purveyor of a 236,000-bird operation – said the farm began as a backyard flock managed by his mother, Nell Hickman. Bill Hickman and his wife Gertie started his iteration of the business with 500 layers and 500 chicks, a shovel and a wheelbarrow in 1958. By 1960, the free-range operation became a cage operation and, in 1964, Bill Hickman built his first climate-controlled house. Glenn Hickman said his father was a pioneer in negative pressure fan barns and one of the first to realize climate control had as much benefit during the winter as the summer.

In 1971, the company, encroached by residential development, moved from its original location to a second in Glendale, Arizona. In 1997, with 350,000 hens, the company moved to Arlington, southwest of Phoenix. Its operations are now spread out through Tonopah, Arlington and Buckeye, Arizona.

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Austin Alonzo is a reporter at WATT Global Media. To contact Alonzo, email aalonzo@wattglobal.com.

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