Australia's largest heritage chicken hatchery has nestled itself in the Adelaide Hills and taken the lead in conserving some of world's rarest birds.
During the thick of Covid-19, Clarendon digital marketer, Emma Gilbert, did a massive career backflip and took breeding heritage chooks to a new level.
Basically, about eight years of breeding "crazy" chickens on her property got the ball rolling and they caught the eye of her local fodder store.
"I was breeding funky chickens in the backyard and the fodder store approached me to see if I would sell them," she said.
So, Emma decided to try her hand at hatching about 30 different breeds of chickens and through the help of a girlfriend, got a hold of a 1000-egg incubator to breed some chicks.
"I thought I would never fill it and in three weeks, I hatched 1000 chicks and sold to the local fodder shop. They sold out in half an hour," she said.
So, the business model was born and after about 12 months of trying to juggle a full-time job and breeding birds, Emma took a risk and threw all of her energy into the new business.
The bird conservation project went off with a boom, according to Emma, as families were collecting chicks as much as they were hoarding toilet paper.
"I had never thought about hatching chooks before and at the time, I was making about $60, wholesale, for a chicken, it was so busy," she said.
These days, the most expensive chook breed is about $1200 a dozen, which is about $200 a chick.
But it has taken plenty of sweat and tears for Emma to reach this point, after the young entrepreneur had to carve her own unique way into the market.
They have 80 different bird varieties and shipping fertile eggs across the country to families and backyard breeders, is her main market.
"We have partnered with Eggspress Safe to deliver eggs securely," she said.
"We breed longevity birds which will lay eggs for about 10 years. They are bred for personality and families."
With some of the birds laying green, blue and chocolate brown eggs, families certainly love having their own rainbow collection of eggs, and to reach these chook enthusiasts, Emma has partnered with couriers and airlines.
"We ship fertile eggs all over Australia on the same day through Australia Post and we have partnered with Qantas and Virgin to ship, live, one-day-old chicks," she said.
"They are shipped in custom-made boxes when they come out of the incubator and then vaccinated, sexed and sent away."
Previously, Australia had not transported live chicks and it took Emma thousands of conversations to make it happen.
"I had to contact the airlines and couriers to see if they were interested in shipping my chicks. I needed them to commit to delivering the chicks alive and as safe as possible," she said.
With about 1200 breeders on the property, Emma runs two, 20,000 egg incubators.
"We restored two, 100-year-old incubators which we found in Swan Hill and Peterborough," she said.
The business also opened its new hatching shed this week, which is made from recycled shearing shed iron, internal fittings found on marketplace and a bit of Emma's creative flair.
"We lost our previous hatching shed after the storms in November last year," she said.
In any given week, up to 500 fertile eggs will be delivered across Australia, as more families turn their hand to incubating.
So, to help make it a success for backyard breeders, Emma has launched an app, Incubate Pro.
The app schedules reminders for breeders about when to turn eggs and, set the correct temperature and humidity.
"The goal was to get it into schools as well to educate about embryology," Emma said.
The main egg production season is from August to March, so in the off-season, Emma also grows dahlias, as cut flower bunches.
"We have about 400 varieties which we grow on the farm and sell as market bunches," Emma said.
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