School kids backyard business takes flight

August 14, 2021 BY
Brother and sister duo Wilbur and Maisy Renney have no shortage of feathered friends. In fact, the entrepreneurial Surf Coast teenagers have channelled their fondness for pet chooks and turned it into a thriving little business they run from their own backyard. Wilbur, 18, and Maisy, 16, are the dynamic young pair behind Bellbrae Chickens and have been selling chickens to locals for almost three years. [caption id="attachment_56747" align="alignleft" width="300"] The siblings share the workload when it comes to Bellbrae Chickens. Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] They started by selling eggs and then stepped up to chicken sales when the business was passed onto them by Jan Juc boys Max and Charlie Dent, who had moved away to study. “We jumped at the opportunity to make some pocket money,” recalls Wilbur, who is completing Year 12 at Geelong College and saving for an around Australia adventure he hopes to take next year. “We had been selling eggs for a long time from chooks we had bought from Max and Charlie, so it seemed like a good idea and it was great to keep the local business going.” Maisy says chickens make amazing pets with the added bonus of giving you delicious fresh eggs every day. She says they lay at around 20 weeks of age and can give you eggs for quite a few years. “They are the perfect animal for young children to take care of as they don’t mind being handled, and it is always exciting to check the nest to find a fresh egg or two,” the Year 10 Kardinia International College student says. [caption id="attachment_56749" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] “They are super friendly, as well as being an economical and sustainable way to get rid of your food waste. “Chickens are so easy to look after, and we make sure we give people all the information they need to keep their girls happy and healthy.” Bellbrae Chickens sells Isa browns, Australorps and leghorns pullets (young hens). “All our breeds are awesome egg layers with the Isa browns bringing a little more cuddly and friendly,” Maisy says. Wilbur says most people buy three to six hens and the Isa brown and Australorps chickens were the most popular. [caption id="attachment_56751" align="alignleft" width="200"] Wilbur says each of the chickens has their own unique personality. Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] “Chickens are really great and I love how all of them have their own personality,” Wilbur says. “You really realise that when you own them yourself. Some are timid, some are more outgoing – it’s awesome. “We have about 20 of our own chickens but at any one time we’ll have about 600 chickens going through. “We’ll buy 100 or 200 every fortnight or every four weeks and they filter through as we sell them.” All you need to get started is a fox-proof chicken coop, a run outside the chicken coop and then food and water to keep them nourished and content. “A fox-proof chicken coop is one of the most important things. [caption id="attachment_56748" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] “Even in the local township, you can expect to find a fox if you have chickens, so make sure they are safe and sound in their coop in the evenings,” Wilbur warns. “We know from experience that foxes will kill every one of your chickens if they can.” Wilbur and Maisy say they have picked up some handy skills through running the business that will help them in the future. “It has been a really good learning experience running our own business, taking orders, talking to customers, and the day-to-day looking after the baby chickens,” Wilbur says. “Before going into it I had no idea about profit and loss and what goes into all the marketing side of it, so it’s really useful.” The siblings equally share the workload which they say is “pretty cruisey”, taking about 15 minutes a day and then a big day of selling every two to three weeks.   [caption id="attachment_56756" align="alignleft" width="200"] Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] Maisy says the delivery day runs like a well-oiled machine, with the hens boxed and ready to go. “Our neighbour’s kids love helping on chicken pick-up day, catching chickens and popping them into boxes. It is a lot of fun!” Wilbur says. Even after they’ve farewelled the chickens, Maisy says customers will often send them snapshots of their feathered friends in their new domains. “We just love getting photos of our chickens in their new homes, and some chickens coops are like the Taj Mahal!” Maisy says. [caption id="attachment_56745" align="alignleft" width="200"] Photo: CORMAC HANRAHAN[/caption] “During COVID, people went mad for chooks; we could not keep up with supply,” Wilbur adds. “We could have sold our girls 10 times over. “Luckily things have calmed down a little now and we can meet demand.” Bellbrae Chickens has a regular supply of six to eight-week-old pullets for sale every two to three weeks. Orders are taken via Facebook or by calling Bellbrae Chickens directly on 0490 398 245. Follow along on social media @Bellbraechickens.
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