Dawn Russell, Treats for Chickens

Treats for Chickens hatched in 2009 in West Petaluma, California.

Those who knew Dawn thought she had simply lost her mind. She gave notice to her employer at a federal government agency in San Francisco to make treats for backyard pet chickens. She traded in her heels and 9-5 schedule for mud boots and the greatest tasting eggs this side of the Mississippi.

It all really began with a 4H poultry project for my son, Jake.  His admiration of “the pet chicken” quickly became my obsession and love.  Feed stores were only carrying scratch and it wasn’t organic back then. Chickens are what they eat and if you are eating those eggs, those chickens should be eating healthy food, treats and supplements.

Photo of Dawn Russell

Treats for Chickens quickly gained popularity and by 2010, online retailers were selling its products.  In 2011, the business leased its first commercial space and within two months had its first West Coast distributor. 

The learning curve

However, the journey was not without its challenges. Dawn had to learn how to manage licensing, logistics, machinery, financials, and sales/marketing plans, on top of setting up a distributor network.

To meet these challenges Dawn met with an advisor at the Napa Sonoma SBDC. Together, they addressed issues relating to sales and marketing efforts. They talked extensively about setting up a distributor network, improving the website and reviewing financials, and discussing manufacturing strategies. As a result of these meetings, the business expanded its distributor network, initiated reviews of financial results, made plans for improving manufacturing capabilities with the possibility of purchasing additional equipment, and engaged the services of a webmaster.

Flying high

Photo of Treats for Chickens products

Fast forward to today: Treats for Chickens continues to produce a collection of healthy and organic treats, supplements, and non-toxic pest control for pet chickens.  Products ship daily from their Cotati, CA warehouse to over 20+ accounts across the US.

Treats for Chickens has experienced some outstanding financial results. Sales increased by 233.7 percent from 2011 to 2012. Dawn was able to put together startup financing through personal savings, amounting to $43,000. Currently, she has two part-time employees. Cash flow has been positive, which has resulted in no additional loans to the company.

Treats for Chickens products are available in local farm and feed stores, local pet shops, hatcheries, and online through a variety of merchants and directly at the website.