PICTURED ABOVE: Tom and Ashley Watkins of McMurray Hatchery
In this second article in the Meet Our Team blog series, we are talking to Tom and Ashley Watkins. Not only are they family, but they are the face of McMurray Hatchery — see photos of their flock, coop and family in our 2018 catalog. Tom is the Vice President of McMurray Hatchery, and he has been with the company for five years. Ashley joined the team one year ago and leads our marketing efforts. Tom and Ashley have a small homestead nearby in rural Iowa with their four children, two dogs, and many chickens, ducks and turkeys.
How many years have you worked at McMurray Hatchery? TOM: I have worked for the Hatchery for five years. ASHLEY: I joined the Hatchery a year ago.
What position(s) have you held at the company? TOM: I started as a Hatch Worker filling chick orders in the back. I moved up to Hatch Manager and then to Director of Merchandise. Currently I’m the Vice President of the company. ASHLEY: I am a graphic designer and lead the company’s marketing efforts.
Have other family members worked at McMurray Hatchery? TOM: Yes. My wife, Ashley, and my father-in-law Bud Wood. ASHLEY: My father is Bud Wood, my husband Tom, and my sister Katherine has worked here filling orders.
Do you raise chickens or other poultry? If so, what kind, for how long, and how many? TOM: We’ve raised chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. I liked the ducks the best, but the chickens are really cool, too, and don’t take as much work! ASHLEY: As Tom said, we have raised a variety of chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys for the past five years. We generally have at least a few, up to 60 or so, at a time.
What is your favorite poultry accessory? TOM: Personally, I think everyone needs a galvanized waterer and feeders. I’ve tried all types of waterers, and when they break I still have the reliable old galvanized ones to use. ASHLEY: The Extreme Range Feeders and the Automatic Water Bowls. These allow us to get away for a couple of days, but know our birds will have plenty of food and water available.
What is your favorite thing about working at McMurray Hatchery? TOM: The people. They are great people. You can really count on them to pitch in, no matter what. Plus, they’re not to bad at cribbage either. ASHLEY: I love being able to come to work with my husband, and working with my dad! I also enjoy being able to take pictures of all the birds and supplies we sell.
If you had one tip for new poultry owners what would it be? TOM: Don’t overthink it. Chickens are easier than any other animal I’ve ever raised. All they need is feed, clean water, and some space. Just collect eggs and walk the coop once a day. Easy peasy! ASHLEY: You don’t have to have an elaborate or “pretty” coop. Your birds will be happy if they have a safe place to perch at night, with plenty of food and water, and some protection from the wind.
What is the funniest thing that has happened while working at the Hatchery? I can’t pin down a once-ever thing, but I’d say it’s a tie between Kirk’s daily terrible joke-telling, or Curt. Just Curt. ASHLEY: Trying to photograph ducklings. They kept waddling so fast I could hardly keep them in the light box or in their boxes!
What is your favorite egg, chicken, or turkey recipe? TOM: My Bagel Egg Sandwich and Spatchcock Chicken. ASHLEY: Chicken à la King. (Recipes below)
Tom Watkin’s Bagel Egg Sandwich
1 bagel, split — I prefer Everything bagels
1 egg, over-easy
1 piece of pork — bacon, ham, sausage, or two
1 piece of cheese
Tom Watkin’s Spatchcock Chicken
1 whole chicken
Using kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting down each side.
Turn it over (cut side down) and press down until it breaks and lays flat.
Tuck wings in and cover with butter and salt — I like a heavy salted skin.
Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your bird, until done.
Serve with gravy from the drippings, and mashed potatoes.
Ashley Watkin’s Chicken à la King
Chicken a la King
2-3 cooked chicken breasts cubed (may vary, depends on size of chicken breasts)
1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1-8 oz container of mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
Saute onion, celery, and mushrooms in butter until tender and browned. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in broth, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly. Add bag of frozen veggies and cook for 2-3 minutes more, then remove from heat. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve over biscuits.
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp chia seeds
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup milk
Mix dry ingredients together until well blended. Cut in cold butter, and then add the milk. Stir until just combined and turn out on a floured surface. Kneed dough 4-5 times, pat into a circle about 1 inch thick and cut biscuits. You can use a traditional biscuit cutter but I prefer to pat my dough into a more rectangular slab and then use a pizza cutter to cut it into squares, it makes less waste and less re-patting out. Place on ungreased baking sheet and cook at 450º for 10 minutes.