From Chicken Dorms to College Dorms


How many students and faculty members on the campus of Cal State San Marcos today realize that the previous occupants of their campus were millions of chickens, residing on one of the largest chicken ranches in the world?

From 1945 to 1985 the Prohoroff Poultry Farm covered 568 acres near Highway 78 and Twin Oaks Valley Road. Here’s an undated aerial photo of the farm from the archives of the San Marcos Historical Society:

 poultry ranch

All those white-roofed buildings were chicken houses where the laying hens were kept, according to an interview I had with a granddaughter of Terenty Prohoroff, the Russian immigrant who founded the farm. Those houses made up the largest portion of the ranch, with a separate section for young chicks.

At its peak the farm housed some two million chickens and produced some 329 million eggs annually. Contemporary newspaper accounts described it as the biggest chicken ranch in the county and one of the largest in the world. Farmers and agricultural departments from as far away as Australia and Japan visited the place.

The ranch also had a plant for processing fertilizer, as you’d expect from an operation generating almost 11 million pounds of chicken manure each month. The flower-growing operations of the Ecke Family of Encinitas was one of the biggest customers for Prohoroff fertilizer.

In 1985 the Prohoroff family sold the land to developers who in turn sold part of the acreage to the state of California for the construction of today’s Cal State San Marcos campus.

Sources for this post included the San Marcos Historical Society archives and interviews with Prohoroff family members.

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3 thoughts on “From Chicken Dorms to College Dorms

  1. Those chickens were probably nasty! Those were in the thick of the industrial farming revolution. Guarantee thousands of chickens crammed close in the chicken coops under those white roofs.

    They probably weren’t fed a species appropriate diet. Mostly antibiotics and “chicken feed” which is worse than modern dog kibble (that’s right, feed your dog RAW MEAT, bones and organs. Look it up if you care for your pet)

    No free range organic chicken there, needless to say.

    But a very cool photograph. I drive on that road every Sunday to go watch Game of Thrones at my friend’s house.

    Have you ever thought about doing a post about San Diego’s hotel history? You got the Horton House (1870-1905) as one of the first, then the Hotel del Coronado (1888-), then The U.S. Grant was completed in 1910, replacing the demolished Horton House. Up in La Jolla, The Grande Colonial was finished in 1913 I believe.

    There’s a great article out there about a series of alleged arsons in 1888 that saw the La Jolla Park Hotel, the St. Cloud and Carlsbad Hotel go up in flames. My money is on arson from somebody connected to the Hotel del. Overzealous front desk clerk, perhaps?

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