If someone told Prue Pincott 14 years ago she was destined to be a chicken farmer she would have told them they were bonkers.
“I would have said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous,'” she laughed.
But more than a decade on, Prue and husband Sam, along with their four daughters, are in charge of 15,000 hens and are shipping off cartons and cartons of fresh, wholesome eggs around the local region and as far afield as Sydney.
It has been such a success that they are now sharing their passion with the public and have opened a new interpretive centre and retail store in the main street of Holbrook.
Holbrook Paddock Eggs is a place where people can talk to the producers and learn about eggs, production, pasture management and free-range best practices.
“It all started with 50 chooks and a caravan; we had no idea the business would grow into what it is today,” said Prue.
The pair are no strangers to farming and both have backgrounds embedded in stock management, cattle breeding and cropping.
A visit to a field day many years prior planted the seed for using chooks to improve soil health. It wasn’t until after experiencing the horror of the Black Saturday bushfires (2009) in Yea, Victoria, that their idea grew legs and took flight.
The Pincotts bought a farm in Little Billabong, northeast of Holbrook, and a small flock of 50 chickens were integrated as part of their pasture management plan for the cattle. The aim was to use the chooks as portable fertilisers to improve the health of the land resource, and to use less synthetics and chemicals.
“The benefits to the pasture were obvious but we soon knew that 50 chooks weren’t going to be enough and that we needed a lot more to have an impact on the whole farm,” said Prue.
Before too long the eggs they were producing as a “side business” were garnering some attention and the business savvy couple knew they just might have something to crow about.
The Little Billabong property didn’t present the ideal topography for the business to spread their wings so in 2013, they relocated to a property closer to Holbrook.
“When we moved things to Bellevue we really decided to give this a red hot go and said, ‘Let’s set the farm up to suit the chooks,'” said Prue.
“Most of the cattle we have now are on agistment and they have become one of the tools in our pasture management – the chooks and the eggs are our core business; the cattle we use to mow the grass so the chooks can come in behind them.”
Quite the role reversal.
Laneways were developed, a water hydrant system installed, 16,000 trees were planted and bush regenerative areas were fenced off as nurturing and encouraging biodiversity is a big part of the business model.
“We are passionate about the landscape and how we produce our eggs,” said Prue.
“It’s important to us that people can see we are genuine and authentic.
“We have found that more and more often people want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced.”
Their shopfront provides another experience for visitors to Holbrook.
“We are so fortunate in Holbrook; there are a lot of great people doing different things here, which is unusual for a small town and we can now also offer another thing for people to come and see and do.
“I think since the bypass was put in place the town has improved. It’s taken the trucks out and people are in town because they want to be; they’ve taken the time to come here.
“Apart from the learning here, we are sourcing products that are different to other businesses in the area; a lot of it is chook related but also bird, garden and farming orientated.”
There are interactive activities to take part in and more ideas on the horizon. While you won’t find their feathered friends in store, you’ll soon be able to see how the eggs are processed and packaged.
“We are relocating that side of the business to the new building so from the front hallway you’ll be able to watch on the days that the eggs are being graded and packaged,” said Prue.
All in all, an egg-cellent opportunity to visit Holbrook.