It was a novel and innovative biosecurity strategy - hens in the skink house; the deployment of an army of chickens to deal to the pesky Aussies invading Aotea Great Barrier.
Since December 2017, a poultry army of 200 has been battling these offshore intruders making a pest of themselves in the local environment while quietly feeding many Aucklanders on the side.
Auckland Council’s biosecurity team, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, launched the pilot project using domestic chickens as pest control agents to remove the Australian plague skink who had found its way onto the island.
The two-legged crew were shipped over from the mainland and released into three fenced-off pens and given one mission: to get scratching and pecking!
Research to date suggests our feathery friends have succeeded in their mission, with plague skink numbers in all three trial pens plunging.
They’ve now done their job and, in the process, delivered around 61,880 free-range eggs; that’s over 5000 dozen with a retail value in excess of $38,500, to the Auckland City Mission.
“We’re extremely grateful to have been the beneficiary of this regular delivery of Great Barrier’s finest eggs over the past year,” says Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly.
“It’s allowed us to add a valuable food source to our emergency parcels we haven’t previously been able to supply, and they’ve been well received by the recipients of those parcels.”
“The initiative has been hugely successful,” says Mayor Phil Goff.
“We work closely with the City Mission to help those struggling, and this has been a great example of collaboration between Auckland Council, Sealink and SKYCITY to help those in need.”
Sealink and SKYCITY flocked to help the eggs have a comfortable and unscrambled weekly journey across the gulf to reach their destination at the Auckland City Mission.
Now the poultry army is pulling up its coops and, in recognition of their hard work, strutting into retirement, Gold Card under wing!
The 200 heroes have been re-homed across Great Barrier Island where they can rest on their feathered laurels, laying at a leisurely pace for as long as the like for their new owners.
The Great Barrier’s plague skink programme will continue to focus on developing new, innovative tools to combat the pest over the coming years.
And there's no yolk about it, this has been an eggcellent and satisfying project.