Rare chooks get the chop

Keven Nordstrom is a chook breeder and an Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate member.

An ambitious project started by a WA poultry enthusiast to import rare chickens from the UK to Australia has hit the chopping block.

More than 4000 chickens held in quarantine at Torrens Island have been slaughtered after several of the birds were found to be infected with salmonella.

Piesseville chicken breeder Meredith Parker spearheaded the Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate 10 years ago to import the chicks at a cost of more than $500,000.

Just days before the birds were due to be released to about 80 breeders across Australia, a destruction order was issued after a chick died from salmonella.

Ms Parker was able to get a last minute court injunction to stop the destruction and a hearing had been set for last Thursday, but further testing found three more of the chicks showed signs of the disease.

Wagin poultry breeder and syndicate member Keven Nordstrom said the decision was “gut-wrenching” and said he had wanted Sumatra chickens — one of the breeds in the importation — since he was eight years old.

He said this would have been the first time non-commercial pure breed poultry had been imported into Australia since 1948 and it was vital new genetic stock made its way into the country.

“A lot of the breeds that we have in this country are so closely related that the standard of them are going backwards and we are getting deformities, and all that sort of thing,” he said.

“We’re not doing it for money or some form of financial gain, we are doing it purely for the love of poultry,” he said.

Syndicate vice-president Peter Jones said it was a tough decision but the syndicate was determined to uphold the bio-security of the country.

“At the end of the day we had to make the right decision, not the convenient or comfortable decision, and also it would have dragged on and that wouldn’t have been fair on our members because the costs would have kept piling up,” he said.

“We made the decision, no one else, to hand them over to the Government to do what they need to do and I believe we can hold our heads high.”

Mr Jones said the syndicate was keen to try again and paid tribute to Ms Parker’s efforts over the past decade.

“She has poured her heart and soul and years of her life at a great cost to herself, and I feel incredibly saddened for her that it hasn’t come off but I would hope that she would rally and be involved the next time.”

“Nobody else in the history of non-commercial poultry has, I believe, ever put in that kind of gargantuan effort like Meredith has.”

Mr Jones said the birds had been handed over to the department and expected their destruction to be imminent.