Fascination With Pheasants Leads to Full-Time Business
Encouraging parents and strong interests have led Cavan Sullivan to where he is today, producing 150,000 pheasants each year and opening a USDA-inspected poultry hatchery and processing facility near Petersburg, Illinois.
Sullivan’s interest in hatching eggs started at a young age. Since kindergarten, he’s had an incubator and been hatching eggs. When he entered high school, he turned his interests into an FFA wildlife management project. Raising between 200 to 300 pheasant eggs per year, he learned about record keeping and selling chicks and adult birds. Encouraged by his parents to continue down this path to help pay for college, Sullivan expanded his small business and focused on advertising. As he created an internet presence for his endeavor, he learned how pheasants were a niche market with little competition. What started as a hobby turned into a full-time, profitable business.
When he started, the adult birds were involved in conservation efforts. Hunters, dog trainers, and other locations purchased Sullivan’s pheasants. However, as the business grew, Sullivan noticed the increase in demand for pheasant meat. This caused the business to shift from mainly a conservation and hunting operation, to providing pheasants for consumption.
There was one issue with this though: the demand for harvested pheasants outweighed the ability to find somewhere to process the adult birds.
“The place I was going to just couldn’t keep up with the amount of birds I wanted processed,” says Sullivan. “After talking with the owner, he made a comment about me starting my own processing facility. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then I started thinking this could really work.”
And work it did. In November 2016, Sullivan, his wife, Sydney, and his brother, Steele, opened a USDA-inspected hatchery and processing facility, Petersburg Poultry Processing. This facility specializes in niche markets and small growers. The hatchery provides many different types of birds including heritage breed chickens, ring neck pheasants, turkeys, Cornish Rock chickens and a few others.
“Customers can buy chicks and book a processing day at the same time,” says Sullivan. “We have a more personal feel and slower pace than larger facilities; we can take a more personal approach.” With the ability to harvest 10,000 birds per week if running at full capacity, the Petersburg Poultry Processing facility offers other small growers a place to get processed products or specialized products.
Importance of Education
Education is a large part of the Sullivan’s business. Available by cell phone at all times, he can answer questions that allow growers to be successful with their birds.
“Challenges are going to happen, and they aren’t always going to happen between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week,” comments Sullivan, “We aren’t afraid to share our knowledge with our customers, because we want to help them be successful in growing their birds.”
Whether it’s education for a first-time grower, or helping a grower find a market for their product, the brothers enjoy helping and teaching others to be successful with their business.
“Our business kind of acts like an incubator for other small growers,” he chuckles.
After all this, it comes as no surprise that the hatchery is his favorite part of their business.
“The miracle of having a chick pop out of the egg after so many weeks is incredible every time,” expresses Sullivan. “The hatchery is where my passion lies, and the rest of our business is what allows us to have our hatchery.”
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