Must Hatch Hatchery

Once home to the “world’s largest baby chick factory”–at least according to company marketing materials–the Must Hatch Hatchery building exhibits a sophisticated Mediterranean Renaissance Revival style in the front office pavilion that diagonally faces the intersection of F and Seventh Street.

Below is a brief history of the Must Hatch Hatchery penned by Norris (Bob) Dyer in the book Celebrating Petaluma.

“The Must Hatch Hatchery was founded by Alphonse Bourke, who arrived in Petaluma in 1899. Encouraged by the seemingly easy success of those in the burgeoning poultry business, Bourke developed his own incubator; in 1910, a 320-egg version sold for $35. Also in 1910, Bourke opened a hatchery on Seventh Street with a hatching capacity of 100,000 white leghorns per month.

In 1912, Bourke sold the business to his son Leo. The younger Bourke improved the incubators and business continued to thrive. In 1923, when the hatchery had reached a capacity of 600,000 chicks a day, a huge fire destroyed it, but business was too good to give up.

By 1927, a new hatchery was ready at 401 Seventh Street. By 1930, the company could achieve 1.8 million hatchlings daily. At 500 employers, it was probably the largest employer in the thirties.

In 1935, Paul Sales…joined forces with Leo Bourke to form a successor company at the same location. Although the Depression years were tough on the chicken industry in the 1930s, the company continued to be successful. Ultimately the company was sold to H&N Farms and the hatchery remained open until 1989.”

From Celebrating Petaluma, published by the Petaluma Sesquicentennial Committee and the Petaluma Visitors Program.

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