We are in a nice, leafy inner city suburb in the south and I meet Fleur the owner of ‘Book a Chook’ in front of a private home. She is about to set up a chook coop in the garden. She runs this chicken renting business since 2010 when she took over from the founder. While we are walking into the garden escorted by the young lady of the house Fleur tells me that she used to work in community health since her background is in health sciences but these days most of her work is around permaculture education and design and the chook business. “I always had chooks. Even when I was living in the city I had chooks and I had experience what works and what doesn’t when you are in a small space.” she tells me a bit about her past. I got to know that she grew up in a farm where her mother ran a free range chook farm.  “We actually had 800 chooks run around the paddock which I helped look after some of the time.  It was very natural for me. I have done small scale chooks and large scale chooks.” Fleur reveals her early encounter with the chickens.

In the meantime we enter the garden which is a middle size one and plenty of space for the chooks to run around. Phillippa the young lady is very excited and listens carefully to Fleur while she explains and sets up the coops, scatters the straws on the ground and fills up the feeding pots.  It seems simple but it’s not that simple as it seem on the surface. “The way the system works it’s designed to be successful it’s designed to be easy to manage” says Fleur. “Because of the breeds that I keep and the Pekin and hens in particular that go out with the rentals are pretty resilient, and very adaptable and they cope with nearly anything. It makes it easy to people to have a successful run with it” summarizes the essence of it.

While she is busy with arranging for the chickens she continues to tell me about the concept of her business. It is really around having a trial run for people who have no experience for looking after chooks. It makes it really easy and makes it successful.” I bring the coop, the chook, the food, the straw set it all up tell people what to do give them and instruction sheet and leave it with them until a week or a month or for longer. It’s up to them for how long but a week is the minimum.” she explains. Rentals can also call her in case there is a problem or they are facing any difficulty or just simply ask a question if they worried about something. I can see now why it works. First try renting rather than going out and spending a whole lot of money and buying everything they need initially and then finding out that it doesn’t suit them.

Does that happen?  I ask Fleur. “It certainly happens that people buy what is not appropriate for their circumstances so a big part of what I do is around education and making sure that people have the right set up the right breeds for the space they got or for the age of the children, or about managing dogs or other pets.” she answers.

To sum up the benefits of having chooks are; to get your own fresh eggs, a good fun activity to do, it’s companionable, and it’s good for the kids as well to have some responsibility looking after the animals. They provide manure for the garden, they eat the snails, the bugs and the weeds and the scraps. They close a loop in the whole food waste, composting and recycling system.

“I think that nearly every garden should have some chooks in it and there are not many places where we can’t fit them in unless you are in an apartment.” Fleur tells the secret.

“By the way this activity is a Zero waste one since everything is reused. I really focus on Sustainability.” she states.

The more people keeping chooks at home the less we rely on large scale food systems and waste management systems we can manage things at home.

http://www.bookachook.com/

Words and photo by Szilvia Csanyi Port Phillip Council. 

Fleur Baker- owner of Book A Chook