Percy Anstey is a name well known to the Saskatchewan Hatchery Industry, and indeed, the poultry business as a whole in western Canada. The hatchery business which he founded almost 40 years ago is still in operation, making it one of the oldest concerns in the province. Throughout the years it has been a family concern and today is run by his wife, Edna, and son, Ron Anstey.
In the early part of the century “Perc”, as he was known to his friends, came to the west with his parents. They settled at Treherne, Manitoba, where his father farmed until the depression. In 1926, Percy married the school teacher from Roland, Manitoba, Miss Edna Thompson, and they farmed for five years until economic conditions forced them to find their livelihood elsewhere.
It was in 1932 that the Ansteys first became involved with poultry, and in particular, the hatchery business. They spent their whole lives together to build their business. However, in 1932 things were hard and Percy and Edna moved to Saskatoon to take over the management of Hambley Hatcheries there. While Percy managed the hatchery itself, Mrs. Anstey managed the office, a position she still retains.
The Ansteys worked there until 1934 gaining knowledge and experience, and that year went into the hatchery business for themselves, opening up a hatchery in Saskatoon. Percy realized that the poultry industry was not suffering as badly as other industries during the depression years. Feeding chicks was cheap for they could be raised on the poorer quality grain which was so abundant at that time. The hatchery flourished right from the beginning because of the improvement of economic conditions in Saskatchewan, after the low point reached in the early 1930’s. In 1942, a new location was chosen for the hatchery on Third Avenue, where the present Saskatoon Business College is now located, and in 1947, a branch hatchery was opened in Lloydminster under the management of Bruce Anstey, Percy’s brother.
The family, by now Percy and Edna had two children – Ron and Marlene, moved to Kelowna, British Columbia, because of Ron’s health.
They sold out the hatchery business in Saskatoon but could not withdraw completely from the business of raising chicks. In Kelowna, they opened another hatchery, although small because poultry was only a sideline in the area of fruit growers.
They stayed nine years in British Columbia and in 1956 moved back to Saskatoon, where they bought another building and re-opened Anstey’s Hatchery. Upon returning to Saskatchewan, they found it difficult to start up again. There were too many small hatcheries in the province, a hangover from the over-expansion of the war years. The business was divided among too many. However, gradually the smaller hatcheries in Saskatoon and throughout the province closed their operations, while the larger one survived and grew. Anstey’s Hatchery was one of the latter, and today in Saskatoon there are only three hatcheries, Anstey’s, Miller’s and Canada Packers.
The Anstey Hatchery has always sold, besides chicks – ducks and goslings, and in the late 1950’s began in turkey poults. Naturally they have also dealt with poultry equipment, such as brooders, feeders and feed itself. Their collection of catalogues, going back to 1935 is interesting, for the prices and material offered over the years. The peak year of production was reached just before they moved to British Columbia in 1947, with over ¾ million chicks hatched and sold. Twenty-five years later, their volume is at a steady 350,000 chicks.
Percy Anstey was an active member of the Saskatoon Kiwanis Club, a member of the Imperial Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Saskatoon Scottish Rite and Rose Croix, an active member of Third Avenue United Church, and a member of the Saskatoon Exhibition Board. He was the first President of the Canadian Federation of Hatcheries, and in 1960, was presented with a scroll for his “outstanding service to the Hatchery Industry” by J.J. Hambley.