In the Beginning
The Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Alberta was established in 1915. The faculty was renamed Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences (ALES) in 2008.
In 1928, the Department of Poultry Husbandry was formed.
In 1942, the Departments of Animal Husbandry, Poultry Husbandry and Veterinary Science were combined to form the Department of Animal Science.
In 1947, the off-campus facilities were founded.
POULTRY CONSERVANCY PROGRAM GETS STARTED
“Rare Poultry Conservancy Program” was started involving six breeds of chickens, maintained unselected, that played a part in the evolution of the poultry industry. The rare breeds and random bred strains currently housed at the Poultry Research Facility were partly obtained from Agriculture Canada Research Station in Ontario and partly from Dr. Crawford’s experimental flocks at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. R. Crawford maintained these breeds as an unselected population since 1965. However, when Dr. Crawford retired, a new home was found for these breeds at the Poultry Research Facility in Edmonton.
PRC GETS FACILITY UPGRADES
The PRC celebrated facility upgrades including the Alberta Chicken Producers Poultry Technology Centre (ACPPTC), the Alberta Hatching Egg Producers Hatchery (AHEPH), and the Alberta Egg Producers Environment Chambers (AEPEC). The ACPPTC houses the Henry Van Zeggelaar laboratory for small scale poultry processing and packaging, the Alberta Turkey Producers Computer Laboratory, and Lilydale Classroom. The AHEPH is a state of the art incubation and hatching facility. The AEPEC consists of eight chambers with extensive environmental monitoring and control capabilities.
RECEIVED FUNDING FOR PROGRAM
With substantial funding from the Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund and Alberta Agricultural Research Institute, the PRC expanded to include value-added areas of meat and egg science.
In 2013, Adopt a Heritage Chicken Program was started to promote the conservation of the unique genetic lines, and to provide a way for the lines to become financially self-supporting.
The Poultry Research Facility is also home to two other breeds that are a very important part of Canadian poultry heritage – we call them Shaver birds. The Shaver birds are named after Donald McQueen Shaver, a prominent and crucial figure to the poultry industry. At the age of 12 Shaver began his journey as an entrepreneur by breeding chickens in his backyard. In 1935 he placed his white leghorn chickens in a Canadian egg-laying contest and they won for best layers! Although he entered World War II as a Regimental Commander and left it as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Tank Corps, he was able to continue breeding his chickens through a friend, the head of the Animal Science Department at Farmingdale State College, State University of New York, Long Island. After his poultry stock was destroyed in a fire, he bought more land and started chicken breeding once more. He became the founder of Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms.
The University of Alberta Poultry Facility Becomes Part of the Story
In the 1950’s two Shaver breeds, Rhode Island red and the barred rock, were placed in a 64 Sire Breeding program. This is a system that can monitor inbreeding by focusing on the male parent genetics. These birds have 50 generations of pedigree breeding. After the lines were discontinued commercially, Don Shaver donated some of the pure lines to the University of Guelph, and the in 2003 the University of Alberta. Both the University of Guelph and the University of Alberta maintain these breeds as it is important to have two stocks in separate locations. If anything were to happen to the facility or the birds, the lines would be protected and the genetic stock could be rebuilt.