this movie is no yolk

The 2017 Na­tional Poul­try Show is a cel­e­bra­tion are of NZ’S old­est poul­try club, and its mem­bers all stars of a chick flick with a dif­fer­ence.


We meet the stars of Peck­ing Or­der and the beau­ti­ful her­itage birds in their lives.

It’s easy to find out if some­one is re­ally se­ri­ous about their poul­try. All you have to do is ask them how many birds are in their flock. You’d ex­pect Christchurch Poul­try, Ban­tam & Pi­geon Club pres­i­dent Mark Lil­ley to have a big flock, but even he im­me­di­ately gets a case of PA (poul­try am­ne­sia).

“I just… I don’t count,” he con­fesses. “I don’t count, it’s eas­ier not to count, then you don’t have to tell lies.”

Mark is one of the stars of the movie Peck­ing Or­der, out in cine­mas na­tion­wide now, and it’s tak­ing some get­ting used to for a man who spends most of his life work­ing on a farm, rais­ing three chil­dren with wife Jen, and tend­ing to his flock un­der the hazel­nut trees on their block on the out­skirts of Christchurch.

“It’s some­thing re­ally weird to us, some­thing most of us never thought we’d be in­volved in. Sud­denly go­ing from this thing which we thought would be on TV late at night or early in the morn­ing be­fore Praise Be, to sud­denly real­is­ing that we are go­ing to be on the big screen. See­ing your­self on a poster, see­ing your­self on the back of a bus.

“I never thought I’d end up in a flip­ping doc­u­men­tary. How did this hap­pen to some­one like me, I’m a coun­try boy who shows chooks!”

The movie, by renowned NZ doc­u­men­tary maker Slavko Marti­nov, fol­lows the Christchurch club through a tu­mul­tuous 2014-2015 when a cri­sis threat­ened the club’s very ex­is­tence.

“I was close at times to leav­ing. Even

now at times I can come home or open up an email and say ‘I’m over this’. But I’m pretty bloody pig-headed and have stuck around to see what hap­pens and to make sure club is around for the next how­ever many years.”

While it might seem odd to agree to have a doc­u­men­tary film crew record­ing your club hav­ing heated ar­gu­ments with one another, Mark says the mem­bers agreed to it be­cause they hoped it might help keep things in line.

“Some of us were think­ing that things might smooth out and off we’d go again, but it was just too far, it was past that. Things like the 80-year-old ask­ing the 70year-old to step out­side into the carpark.

“The funny thing is, when you stop and think about it, sim­i­lar con­flicts are go­ing on through­out New Zealand, through­out the world all the time. I think that’s what Slavko wanted to show: this is peo­ple, real peo­ple do­ing real things.”

For­tu­nately, the club sur­vived and this year it cel­e­brates a big mile­stone, turn­ing 150, and host­ing the 2017 Na­tional Poul­try Show where NZ’S top breed­ers get to­gether to com­pete. The club’s monthly meet­ings are also quite dif­fer­ent.

“We’ve changed it since ev­ery­thing hap­pened and there are new peo­ple in the man­age­ment team. We en­cour­age peo­ple to bring in birds, we’ve had lots of dif­fer­ent birds through our meet­ings, from par­adise ducks to pukeko. All sorts of poul­try that are good poul­try and ones that have got faults. You have to have the ones with faults so peo­ple can learn – I’ve taken birds in there with faults so ev­ery­body can learn.”

Mark started rear­ing fancy poul­try just over 10 years ago, when he im­pul­sively bought some Barn­evelders at the an­nual Rare Breeds Auc­tion in Christchurch, then en­tered them – and did well – at his first A+P Show.

“Sud­denly I thought, like a fool, this is easy, any­one could do this! And it’s just sort-of grown from that re­ally.”

His goal, like so many oth­ers who get into breed­ing fancy poul­try, is to breed the perfect bird.

“…which will never hap­pen and that’s the stupid part about it, it’ll never hap­pen. But you drive your­self to do that, and when you sit down at night and think about it, you’re never go­ing

to do it but you still go out the next day and try to do it. Some peo­ple say you’re nuts, but ev­ery­body’s got their own lit­tle ob­ses­sion.”

Be­ing part of Peck­ing Or­der means a lot of peo­ple will get to see all the stun­ning her­itage breeds in NZ and hope­fully will help bring new mem­bers along to learn about poul­try.

“We’ve got to get peo­ple to fall in love with chick­ens and come along and get hooked, just like some of us other silly peo­ple,” he jokes. “There’s a big push at the mo­ment for peo­ple to have poul­try and we’ve got to have places those peo­ple can go and ask ques­tions and talk to peo­ple face-to-face rather than just jump­ing on the com­puter and googling.”

There’s also nowhere on Google that can help you with pre­par­ing to be the star of a movie. Mark and Jen talked with the movie’s di­rec­tor Slavko Marti­nov to try and pre­pare them­selves.

“He said you’ve got to be pre­pared, in the po­si­tion you’re in, that you could be tak­ing calls from all over the world. And I said par­don? And he said you’ve got to take notes with you, in your pocket so that if some­one asks a ques­tion and you need some­thing to look down at or to look up the an­swer, you can look it up there and then. I said nah, nah, you’re be­ing silly. He said it’s go­ing to hap­pen, this is big. And I said nah, nah this is a just a poul­try doc­u­men­tary. And he said this is big! You’re not go­ing to be able to keep up with it.”

Film­ing of Peck­ing Or­der fin­ished al­most two years ago, but Slavko is still a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to his favourite poul­try club.

“We had a meet­ing on Mon­day night and he brought his girl­friend with him and we all sat down and had a huge laugh and a chat. He’s an in­cred­i­ble guy.”

Some peo­ple say you’re nuts, but ev­ery­body’s got their own lit­tle ob­ses­sion.

The Bun­ton fam­ily started with four hens. Now it’s a flock of Arau­canas for her mum and Par­tridge Wyan­dotte ban­tams for Sarah.

Many poul­try breed­ers care­fully pick and choose what birds be­come par­ents, but Sarah’s regime is a lit­tle more ran­dom.

“They kind of breed them­selves,” she laughs. “Stuff hap­pens, I’ve got some crosses around. I’m prob­a­bly more into them for the pets re­ally rather than show­ing.”

Chick­ens aren’t al­lowed in the house, but the odd one has made it in­side.

“I slept with one in my room once, he went to sleep I think, and then he crawled into the bed­head and took a pooh, and then crawled back into bed. I thought that was pretty smart!”

The feath­ers on Sarah’s birds are del­i­cately edged in black like some­one has hand-painted each one with a fine-tipped brush but she says she’s look­ing first for the best bod­ies.

“It’s good to have a good pat­tern, but if you don’t have a good body type you’re go­ing to lose there.”

The Pa­panui High School stu­dent says she came in for a lit­tle flack when the movie trailer first showed back in Fe­bru­ary – “oh gosh, how em­bar­rass­ing!” – but says since then most peo­ple have been “pretty cool” about it.

She says she can’t imag­ine a life with­out chick­ens in it.

“They’re cool to have around and it’s just weird think­ing ‘I’ll go buy some eggs in the su­per­mar­ket’ be­cause you’ve al­ways got eggs. Go­ing to buy eggs is just bizarre re­ally.”

Chick­ens aren’t al­lowed in the house, but the odd one has made it in­side. “I slept with one in my room once!”

When Rhys Lil­ley first told his friends he was go­ing to be in a movie, they didn’t be­lieve him. “Even last year they didn’t re­ally be­lieve me un­til the movie trailer came out. They think it’s pretty funny now.”

See­ing your­self up on the big screen is a weird ex­pe­ri­ence says Rhys.

“You’re just never think­ing that just around the cor­ner, some guy is com­ing and knock­ing on the door and want­ing to make a movie about you and your chick­ens.”

Rhys got into poul­try aged nine and has con­cen­trated on the Leghorn ban­tam (pro­nounced ‘le gorn’).

“They’ve just got their own per­son­al­i­ties I guess, and they’re cool to work with. I might have 15 or so.

“(Dad and I), we’re work­ing to­gether to get bet­ter birds. The Leghorns, you want a re­ally good square ch­est, like a brick.”

Rhys has a spe­cial gift with an­i­mals says his dad Mark.

“When he was about three, he used to go out in the pad­dock and he had two Light Sus­sex hens and he would pick them up, one un­der each arm, and walk around. He’s just got a knack of be­ing able to calm an­i­mals down and get them to do what he wants them to do.”

That helps when it comes time to wash birds in readi­ness for a show. It isn’t as simple as get­ting up the day of the show and putting them in the bath.

“The lead-up to (a show) is a bit stress­ful in terms of fit­ting in all the times with wash­ing them,” says Rhys. “We’ll wash them a week to five days out. You nor­mally keep them in­side, then if they get a wee bit dirty, it’s not a like full hard­out wash, it’s a spot wash.”

That time de­lay be­tween the wash and the day of the show is cru­cial as the bird needs to preen their now clean feath­ers back into the cor­rect po­si­tion.

“It makes them look fluffy when you blow dry them and then you’ve got to leave that time so the feath­ers can tighten and set­tle down in the right places and the bird does that (by preen­ing).”

THIS IS KIM’S new chook house and it’s pretty amaz­ing. There is a main liv­ing area for the flock and a sec­ond room for all her equip­ment and feed.

The picture of the rooster on the back is an homage to Kim’s first rooster.

“When we brought our house ap­prox­i­mately five years ago a rooster got dumped across the road at a pub­lic lake re­serve and he wan­dered up our drive­way one day and never left. He was lovely. At the time I had three hens and he got on with them and pro­tected them so much and then one day – about three years ago – he mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared and we haven’t seen him since.

“I got one of the many photos I had of him blown up and put on cor­ru­gated iron. This might sound silly but I wanted some­thing to dec­o­rate my new chook house and I thought he could watch over my new flock.”

Mark with a Leghorn rooster. Who: Mark Lil­ley Where: Rolle­ston, Christchurch What: 4ha (10 acres) Breed­ing: Light Sus­sex, Sil­ver Pen­cilled Wyan­dotte ban­tams, Leghorn ban­tams, An­cona ban­tams, Old English Game ban­tams Web: www.poul­

Left: Rhys and Mark with their breed­ing birds. Above: Peck­ing Or­der di­rec­tor Slavko Marti­nov.

Mark (left) and son Rhys in a scene from Peck­ing Or­der.

Top left: Sarah with some of her flock. Top right: Check­ing a bird for faults. Above: Pre­par­ing birds for a show, in­clud­ing re­moval of rogue feath­ers.

W Who: Sarah Bun­ton Age: 16 Where: Pa­panui, Christchurch Breed­ing: Par­tridge Wyan­dotte ban­tams

Who: Rhys Lil­ley Age: 14 Where: Rolle­ston, Christchurch Breed­ing: Leghorn ban­tam

Rhys has grown up a bit since his star­ring turn in Peck­ing Or­der, aged 12.

Who: Kim Glent­worth th Flock: 14 Where: Wan­ganui The Chick Inn in­cludes a spe­cial picture of Kim’s first rooster.

Kim’s part­ner built in ex­tra nest boxes, with room for growth in flock num­bers.

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