AT 5am, most teenagers are still in bed, but Duchembegarra’s William Mackley has already started his day’s work.
William, 17, is the proud owner of his own business, Natimuk Poultry.
His daily routine involves checking his flock at least three times a day - before school, after school and at night.
The Horsham’s St Brigid’s College student started the business by accident when he was 12.
He had some chooks, and when a neighbour lost hers to a fox, she paid him for some eggs.
“I thought I could make a bit of money out this - it was an opportunity to make a bit of pocket money,” he said.
“I started with 10 chooks that I bought for $20 each and it went from there.”
Now, five years later, William has about 75 chooks.
Soon after starting the business, he realised he could buy young chicks for cheaper, allowing him to make more money and expand his enterprise.
“I buy day-old chicks and raise them to the point of laying,” he said.
“I broke my leg playing footy in April so I had to scale back a bit, but I used to have about 350 chooks.
“After I broke my leg, I sold about 300 off. I’m just getting back into the swing of things now.”
William buys chickens from Gawler in South Australia, which are then delivered to Naracoorte, where he picks them up from.
He restocks every eight to 10 weeks and is expecting his next lot at the end of the month.
A lot of work goes into the business.
“I have to get up early to check their feed and water,” William said.
“When I get home from school I check them again, and then again before I go to bed.
“The other day I was up at 2am checking them.”
It’s not just making sure there is enough food and water that keeps William busy.
“The other day I spent about two or three hours trapping and killing a fox that was trying to get them,” he said.
“About six months of work goes into one egg.”
It's a time-consuming job, but William is a true farmer and believes there is plenty of time to manage the business and his school work.
“There are always enough hours in the day, you just have to get up early enough,” he said.
His business set-up comprises an old dairy shed, with perches on one side, nesting boxes on the other and buckets of wheat for feed down the middle.
“I just have a basic set-up, but it works,” he said.
“I have tried automatic feeding and watering systems, but there are more things that can go wrong that way - doing it by hand is simpler.”
The chooks are free range, with an automatic door that opens at noon each day and shuts at sunset.
The water is cleaned and filled each day and William collects eggs every day.
“It’s just making sure everything's running smoothly,” he said.
William has white, black and brown chooks.
The white ones lay white eggs and they are better summer layers, while the black ones lay in winter and the brown in spring.
The business has grown through word of mouth and his Facebook page, Natimuk Poultry.
“By mid-December I had orders for about 50 dozen eggs for Christmas,” he said.
“Many people buy a dozen a week
“The Natimuk Cafe buys 15 dozen a week.”
William said Natimuk Poultry was a business he wanted to continue and expand in the future.
“It’s satisfying getting a chicken and raising up to be a chook for it to then start laying eggs,” he said.