University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 1/1995
Charles Allen: Still hatching new ideas

     When Charles C. Allen Jr., Delaware '40, was 5 years old,
his family moved from its small truck farm near Bridgeville,
Del., into the town of Seaford so they could have electricity.
The family didn't really need the electricity, Allen says, but
the chickens-at least the eggs they hatched from-did.
     Today, when Allen, president of Allen's Hatchery Inc.,
surveys the success of the family's three agricultural
businesses-which have a combined total of 2,300 employees-he
sometimes marvels at how it all began.
     Allen's Hatchery alone has 27 company farms with
approximately 100,000 chickens on each. There are an additional
600 contract farmers who grow chickens for them. Then, there is
the Allen Milling Co., which manufactures the feed for the
chickens to eat, and Allen Family Foods, which processes and
transports the chickens to market.
     It's a long way from the day when Allen's mother-whom he
describes as a "progressive woman with ideas who just wouldn't
stand still"-convinced his father to buy their first egg
incubator. That first machine held 250 eggs, and used kerosene
lamps for heat. To exercise the yolks, the eggs had to be turned
by hand three times a day.
     In today's modern poultry business, the eggs are turned
automatically by machine, and the chickens live their lives in
climate-controlled houses where other machines see that they are
automatically watered and fed.
     Allen, who lives in the house in which he was born, is also
an international business traveler. While he enjoys nothing more
than having coffee and a chat with the employees who keep the
family trucking fleet in operation, he is equally at home
discussing the merits of quality Allen products with an importer
in Hong Kong.
     "I always thought I'd be a farmer but I never thought it
would be so involved," he says. "In 60 years, I've seen lots of
changes to the poultry business."
     The Allens hatched their first chicks in 1919, and, as such,
hold the title as the oldest poultry operation on the Eastern
Shore. Today, it takes a mere 10 weeks to go from a freshly laid
egg to a chicken dinner. More than 3 million eggs are set each
week in the family's three hatcheries. They emerge 21 days later
as baby chicks that are either raised on Allencompany farms or by
contract growers. The eventual output ranges from 2.2 million to
2.5 million birds a week. It takes 16,000 tons of feed each week
for the breeders, broilers and roasters.
     Allen, the eldest in the family, has two brothers, Jack and
Warren. Each brother has a son and, together, the six make up the
Allen family corporation. Charles' son, Charles C. (Chick) Allen
III, Delaware '71, is president of Allen Family Foods, the
processing and sales part of the business. A grandson, Charles C.
Allen IV, is currently a junior at UD majoring in animal science.
     In addition to his role in the poultry business, Allen is
responsible for overseeing the family's farming operation. The
truck farm where his father grew tomatoes, lima beans and corn to
feed the horses and mules has grown to 3,600 acres on which the
family grows corn, wheat, barley, soybeans and sorghum. He also
oversees the maintenance part of the family's trucking business.
     The Allen family sells fresh chicken year-round in markets
in Boston, New York, Providence, Syracuse, Washington and
Baltimore, among others. It takes 50 trucks each day to move the
dressed poultry from the family's plants to the markets. In
addition, there are 19 feed trailers needed to move feed from the
mill to the poultry farms. As a result, there are Allen family
trucks on the road day and night.
     Allen married his high school sweetheart, the late Mary
Elizabeth Huston, while a student at UD in 1940. While here,
Allen lettered in football and played baseball. He remains a
member of Sigma Nu fraternity.
     After graduation, the newlyweds moved to Maryland and ran a
feed and flour mill for six years. Because it was considered an
essential civilian service, Allen was not drafted, although his
brothers were. When they returned from the war, the three went
into the poultry business together. Step by step, they increased
their hatchery business, adding milling, then processing and,
eventually, marketing.
     Allen doubts that he or his brothers will ever appear in
television commercials like their competitor Frank Perdue. "A
good product will sell itself," he says. "Our best advertising is
putting a nice bird on the shelf."
     Allen is an active supporter of many University scholarship
programs. In 1994, he established a Life Income Trust that will
result in scholarship assistance to undergraduates in the College
of Agricultural Sciences after his death. This is in addition to
the Allen Family Scholarship, already awarded to students in the
College of Agricultural Sciences.
                                                  -Beth Thomas