By Georgina Hore
A flock of Keith chooks are taking their eggs on the road and having a “crack” at the nomad lifestyle – their homes are some of the first “chicken caravans” in South Australia.
It was an idea hatched by Bill and Sally Hood while travelling Australia in 2013.
They were traditional beef cattle farmers at the time but on their travels they struggled to find great tasting eggs like those back home.
They set out on a mission to produce backyard, pasture raised paddock eggs, while teaching consumers about sustainable choices around food and farming. And so the chicken-mobiles came to roost on their property in April 2014.
The Hoods now produce 25,000 pasture free range eggs every week – and the demand continues to grow.
The chooks are living a nomadic, natural lifestyle stocked at a density equivalent to 18 chickens on land the size of the Adelaide Oval. Because there are no fences they are lovingly protected by a Maremma shepherd dog.
The ‘chookens’ – as the Hood’s call them – spend four nights in each spot before the caravan is wheeled to a new position where fresh land allows the chickens to happily scratch, dig and dust bath.
“Our mobile ‘chooken’ houses are designed so that the chooks live outside, that’s what makes them special,” said Sally.
‘They’re only inside if they are sleeping (perching) or laying an egg.
“In a normal free range environment the house is designed for the chooks to live inside… going outside only if they want to.”
Pastured farming also has beneficial impacts for the environment. By rotating the animals over fresh soil, their waste enriches the soil rather than harming it.
The Hood’s are also sharing their success.
“One of the best things about this business is being able to give eggs to people who need them,” Sally said.
Hoods Earth Eggs now consistently support the Kick Start 4 Kids school breakfast program by pledging all there ‘pullet’ eggs to the cause.
They also donate eggs to Oz Harvest when attending the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Markets each fortnight.
And the Hood’s venture has inspired other South Australian farmers – one farm near Kimba and three others near Mount Gambier are now producing eggs using the same unique system.
Watch Sally Hood speak at the 2016 Regional Summit