Something to talk about

By Melissa Walsh  Photos Yanni

When Giuliana’s parents passed away in 2012, she and husband Jason moved into the family home to look after the farming side of the business, beginning a life and passion they didn’t know they had.

For this former corporate couple had lived a very different life until then. Although Giuliana had grown up on a chicken farm, it was far removed from the new life she and Jason had been thrown into at the farm. 

After five long years building the business from scratch on the family farm, the couple and their daughter relocated to the peninsula in 2017 to continue their journey and sell backyard hens.

“Even though I grew up working with chickens, it is very different when you actually have to build and run a business. Jason and I have learned so much about farming and ourselves over the course of our journey it has been amazing,” said the couple from their property in Merricks.

“When we first started out on our original family farm, we removed all the old cages and started a new free-range egg business called Talking Hens. Jason had no prior experience or knowledge of chickens so had to learn fast. We scrimped and saved, used second-hand and recycled equipment where possible and are proud of the small free-range egg business we created there despite the many challenges.

A new chapter has now been opened following our move to our new Mornington Peninsula Farm in Merricks this year. Our focus has moved completely away from free range egg production and solely to providing high-quality backyard hens, equipment and feed to our Peninsula customers and all the advice needed to make sure that they are successful.”

Developing a love and deep understanding of chickens and their needs was an evolving process for the couple who spent time with a well-regarded poultry Vet in Hastings when working through the various challenges experienced in the free-range egg business.

“There is a lot of work in maintaining a healthy and happy flock of hens and just a simple thing like the surface of an eggshell can indicate that one bug or another is affecting the hens,” said Giuliana.

“My dad learned early on that the health of the hen had to do a lot with the quality of feed. Over the years my dad had to deal with poor feed quality that was making his hens sick. To overcome the problem, he asked a leading poultry diet researcher at the time to create a recipe that would provide excellent quality eggs along with maintaining good hen health,” said Giuliana. “Dad started making his own chicken feed on the farm and we use his same recipe to this day. It is very popular with hens and their owners and can be brought online or from us at the farm.”

“I would say to Jason, I’ve seen a number of soft eggshells which normally indicated the presence of a bug. After a while, we became quite intuitive about what was going on with the hens. Another thing Jason learned was how to handle and hold hens so that they are as relaxed and comfortable as possible. As all of our hens go to backyards as family pets they are all treated as pets for their entire time with us! We are very hands-on and love imparting our knowledge and advice to customers who are often completely new to hen ownership.”

Selling and caring for backyard hens takes a special kind of person and it is clear that Giuliana and Jason are ideal for the job. For Jason, who had no experience with chickens and farming, he now embraces every moment of their backyard chicken business. Jason learned how to tell the health of the hens by walking into the housing area.

“I can tell simply by the sound and movement of the hens how they are health-wise,” said Jason. The couple agree that looking after hens is a seven day a week business and they also spend a considerable amount of time producing the high-grade chicken feed that they sell all over Australia.

Using their experience as past free range egg farmers to help others have a slice of farm life in their suburban backyard. 

“It is very popular to own backyard hens these days and we love being a part of the growing movement. So many different kinds of people want backyard chickens and are keen to learn more about the right nutrition to use and how best to care for their new pets. Hen ownership helps to educate children on life and how nature works. It’s also great for the environment and a much-needed way to reconnect with nature.”

Having a hen as a pet is becoming more popular all the time and the couple say there are no permits needed in most residential areas.

“In Melbourne, most households can keep hens without a problem. We supply all  the hens, information and products needed to look after your new pets along with ongoing phone and online support,” they said.

Talking Hens is at 3590 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks.
Phone 0406 691 231

First published in Peninsula Essence – May 2019