MacFarlane Pheasants’ Kristin Merriman is a woman besieged. As the manager of the Hungarian partridge barn, she and a team of two others are single-handedly managing 60,000 birds this season from new-hatched chick to mature bird. With this many mouths to feed and clean up after, she’s grown efficient in her preparation and offered a peek at her methods of moving partridges faster.
1. First, Be Knowledgeable
Merriman, who joined the MacFarlane team in the winter of 2013, has quickly learned how much more care partridges require versus pheasants. As a smaller bird, they have smaller moving parts, requiring an increase in care. For instance, where a pheasant has two phases in its first seven weeks, starting in an “A” room and moving to the “B” room, partridges require a precursor, what we call the table room, for their first week. An additional room means additional work. Hun chicks are also watered manually, instead of with automatic lines, meaning that special drinking stations made of mason jars must be set up by hand. By knowing the requirements and the current best practices, and by the education of doing the same steps again and again, Merriman was able to begin modifying. For instance, utilizing our dosatron, she and her staff are able to mix up the prepared water with medication in large batches, cutting down on individual time requirements. They’ve also integrated an automated feed system, which allows them access to feed in every room, cutting down on back-and-forth. These are just a few of the many ways her mastery of the method has led to its improvement.
2. Next, Don’t Skimp On What Matters
When up to 8,000 chicks are coming in every two weeks, and it’s just you and a few friends, time is of the essence. Merriman and her team have been constantly streamlining the process of switching chicks, which is important because there is only one partridge barn and the birds are coming, ready or not. But the most important step is making sure each room is thoroughly cleaned, sterilized, and pressure-washed before the next generation arrives. In the table room, for example, plastic is used under the wire tabletops so that soiled wire gratings can be separated quickly and the underlying layer thrown out. While the washing itself can’t be sped up, minimizing the steps around it allows her team to do a thorough job on the things that matter. This prioritization is important when one only has three or four days to clean an entire barn with three people.
Two weeks ago was the final partridge hatch of the season, and though there are still jobs to be done, Merriman and her team are enjoying the brief respite from the pressure of moving tiny, delicate birds every few days since April. From here, she’ll turn her attention to the white pheasant research and late-season chukars. But huns are never far from her mind in a constant effort to innovate and improve. “I always look for the most efficient way of doing something,” she says. “The more you do it, the faster you get.”