Joe Kaczorowski, as student at Little Wolf High School in Manawa, has been around chickens since he was a kid, as he grandfather and father raised chickens.
“We always had chickens around the farm and I just grew to really love them,” Kaczorowski said. “I was always with them, playing with them.”
It was a class project when Kaczorowski was in fifth grade that turned that interest into a business.
“My fifth grade teacher decided to hatch chicks with me,” Kaczorowski said.
His interest was sparked even further because he thought, “We have chickens, why can’t I get an incubator and build off of that?”
After the class project, he said it took a couple of months to get his own operation going.
“I had to nag my parents a little bit,” he said. “I really wanted to do this and then in a year I was full-fledged doing it.”
When asked what he parents’ reaction was when he told them his plan, Kaczorowski said, “They didn’t think it was that bad, but they probably weren’t thinking that it would be as big as it is today. They were thinking it would be a good hobby.”
Kaczorowski said he started with a tiny chicken coop that held 25 hens.
“I had a little wash kettle that I bought. I was proud of it,” Kaczorowski said. “I used hot water from the house and brought it to our family barn. Then I went downstairs in the basement and hatched chicks.”
Kaczorowski, who calls his business JK Hatchery, now has five chicken coops and recently upgraded a milk house, which has hot water, a sink and a hose. He raises 75 hens each year that lay eggs year round. Of those eggs, Kaczorowski hatches and raises 400-500 chicks per year. These chicks are then sold to the public.
To get to where his business is today, Kaczorowski said there have been challenges along the way. Before he began he did a lot of research and asked experts a lot of questions, but he still failed a lot when he first tried hatching chicks on his own.
“I made mistakes, but that’s how I learned to be business strong,” Kaczorowski said.
Another challenge is the fact Kaczorowski is dyslexic.
When he graduates from high school, Kaczorowski said he plans to attend college, and admitted that he is unsure if he will be hatching chicks during his time in college. That doesn’t mean that will be the end of his business.
“I plan to always have baby chicks and chickens but just as a hobby, I don’t think that I can go big,” he said.
Despite the challenges, and a looming break from the business because of college, it has been all worth it so far.
“I enjoy the fact that I am doing something with an animal because I like animals, so I enjoy that,” he said. “I enjoy the customers who come and tell me their stories about their little farm they are developing. I like it when kids come to the farm and they buy chicks from me. And I give them a lot of chicks for free just so they can get started and get a solid base on it.”
Giving back and helping kids learn about baby chicks is important to Kaczorowski. He proved that this spring, when the fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Suehs, who helped spark his interest in hatching chicks ran into problems when doing the class project for her preschool students at St. Paul Lutheran School in Manawa.
“She called me up and told me her incubators weren’t working,” Kaczorowski said. “Of course for the kids, I can’t just let them not see baby chicks after they’ve been waiting so long. I let them use an incubator. I gave her eggs that were almost ready to hatch and she hatched them in class.
“When I was their age I got to see it so I feel that every kid should be able to see that and maybe they will start selling baby chicks or they will get into cattle or pigs or something like that. That’s the whole purpose of it – for the kids.”