WHAT started as a hobby has become a growing business for Blake McFarlane, with 300 Highline hens producing more than 130 eggs per day at the family farm at Forest Hill, near Mt Barker, for a regular group of 20 or more happy clients, who rave about the quality of his eggs.
It's a small, positive ag story but what makes this extraordinary is that Blake is a 13-year-old boy, whose passion for his chooks combined with his business plan and ambition is already turning a child's hobby into a potential career.
Blake comes from a farming family and said he was always drawn to farming.
"At first it was a small hobby that I had going, but I wanted to turn it into something that I could do in the future,'' Blake said.
"I set up my plans, since a long time ago I have wanted to be a farmer.
"My parents, my granddad, my grandma, my uncles are all farmers.
"I have grown up partly on a dairy farm - my uncle and my grandmother and granddad own a dairy farm and I go out there a lot.
"I have always wanted to do farming."
Blake started running chooks when he was about five-years-old, with a few Highline hens bought from a hatchery in Perth.
"I got a rooster when I was about eight,'' he said.
"Things built up and up and I ended up going into show chooks and most of my stock is all show stock.''
His parents Joanne and Shane bought him 10 Highline pullets as a present for his 11th birthday, then surprised him with a further 10 - which allowed him to start his egg business.
Now he has 300 layers and a busy daily schedule, which starts at 6.30am when he goes out to feed and water the chooks and check the laying boxes and that all the hens are safe.
The process is repeated when he gets home from school in the afternoon and at night he turns on the lights for a few hours, so they get 15 hours of light to keep their laying routine up.
He keeps up a regular surveillance of the laying boxes when he is at home and also looks after two dogs, Bella and Snow, which guard the chickens.
Shane helps during the day, checking on and collecting eggs from the free-ranging hens and Blake's sisters Jacinta, 17 and Cara, 15, both pitch in too - usually with stamping eggs, designing labels for the Blake's Chooks and Eggs cartons and labelling the cartons.
"I do love it,'' Blake said.
"I have always loved chooks.
"Sometimes people think it is a bit weird that I love chooks so much, but they can show their personalities.
"All of them have different personalities and they are so funny when you watch them.
"When I go out to feed them they will jump on my back, I'll pat them.
"They will all come up to me and they are really friendly.''
Blake sells his eggs for $5 a dozen to a regular group of private customers and teachers at his Mt Barker school and via his Facebook page, but interest is growing with two farmers markets interested in him selling there.
"At the moment, all the money goes back into the business to help pay for more chooks, food for the chooks, dog food, cartons, labels and eventually we will get a packing shed with an egg washer and grader,'' Joanne said.
"He helps me with the books, so he can see all the money that comes in and he knows where it all goes.''
Blake said he had received good feedback on the quality of the eggs.
"We have a lot of people come up to me or my parents, saying they used to buy eggs with their shopping,'' he said.
"They say these are better than the shop eggs.
"They taste better and look better and when they crack them into a bowl, they don't slide around - they sit straight in the middle and they stay there."
Blake said he thinks the eggs taste better because of the way he looks after his hens - and the enthusiasm in his voice and his knowledge are obvious.
He said the free range hens are fed a diet of shell grit, green grass and a 17 per cent protein mix from local company Morgan Feed Supplies.
And there's one last secret to his success.
"I just think I spend more time with them,'' Blake said.
"It's the attention I give all my chooks with the meat meal, to make sure they have good health, the vinegar to flush out anything they have in their system, the pellets, which are 17pc protein, access to green feed and access to clean water."
Blake said he had no limits on where his business might go.
The family is planning investments in more fencing and equipment which will increase his capacity.
"I want to build up to 10,000 chickens,'' he said, laughing.
"When we get all the fencing done on our property, I will build up more and more."