JACKSON “JJ” Butchard was two when he begged his dad Tyson to buy him some ducks and chickens.
Taking a bath with them, he then urged his dad to help him start breeding them – buying fertile eggs, incubating them and then selling them at poultry auctions as chicks, pullets or roosters.
Fast forward almost a decade and the quiet and thoughtful 11-year-old Central Coast boy carries a business card that lists him as director/owner of JJ’s Chickens, and pledges “if it crows, bring it back for a new one or money-back guarantee”.
In the past five years, Jackson has saved $50,000 via his pet hobby – he also breeds a few cattle - and reinvested some of it to buy equipment to build more pens for his feathered brood.
In January he and his dad went halves in a deposit on a $85,000 home in rural Texas, just over the NSW border in Queensland, which boasts a population of just over 1000.
Tyson already owns a farm there and says he and his son visit as often as they can to renovate their house and get the chance to camp in swags on the farm.
“He loves it, we just watch shooting stars and talk about the universe,” he says.
Sitting at his picturesque rural home in Little Jilliby, his face shaded by his well-worn Akubra, Jackson is quietly confident of achieving a goal that’s been burning in his mind for some time.
“There’s a little town called Yetman, near Texas, and I want to buy all the houses there and call it JJ Town,” Jackson says nonchalantly.
There’s a little town called Yetman, near Texas, and I want to buy all the houses there and call it JJ Town.
“It would be a good investment to have 60 houses per week in rent and I could then have multiple farms.”
Later, Tyson laughs as he says he has no idea how the people of Yetman feel about his son’s plan – “but if anyone can do it, he can”.
On the 20 acre, Central Coast farm he and his dad call home, Jackson is in his element.
Most days he rises at 6am most days to monitor his stock.
At the moment, he bottle feeds some new Friesian calves, keeps an eye on a handful of Brahams and, most importantly, keeps a watchful eye on the 240 chicken eggs that sit in four incubators on the kitchen bench.
These days he doesn’t buy fertile eggs, instead choosing to breed his poultry stock from his own laying hens.
As the peak summer breeding season begins, he collects eggs from the nine breeds of hens he keeps in pens, including Rhode Island Red, Pekin bantams and Blue Austrolorps.
On the shell of each freshly laid egg he puts a pen mark to indicate its breed then waits 10 days before he places them in an incubator for another 21 days.
Most weekends he rises at 1am with his dad and packs their truck with boxes of day-old, unsexed chicks, and sometimes pullets (young hens), to sell at poultry auctions at Wyong, Maitland and surrounds.
The earlier they arrive and register their poultry lots, the higher the price they are likely to fetch.
Tyson Butchard says their clients are largely “Facebook farmers” or city slickers with farm weekenders, often with children who want a cute chicken or two to cuddle.
A box of six day-old chicks can cost between $20 and $60 but if bred for another 15 weeks might fetch $600 as pullets.
Jackson breeds the poultry to learn, and for sheer fun.
“Here I get to have a world of my own and play with my dogs and Dad and nobody tells me what to do,” Jackson said.
Tyson – who was raised in West Wyalong and ditched his former life as a finance broker in Circular Quay to set up a pest control contract business in the bush – is close with his son, and evidently proud of him.
“He works hard and whatever he wants he deserves,” he says.
There is no TV or IPad when the sun is out – Jackson is out in his natural element, watching the cycle of life play out amid the farm animals and pitching in.
On the weekend, he helps his dad at work and gets pocket money he uses to buy stock and poultry feed.
“He’s ambitious and if he grows up with good morals and a good person well I’ll be happy,” says Tyson.
“When we go to the auctions, everyone loves him and want to talk to him and there are no other kids around but he’ll talk to everyone.
“I don’t see that enough in kids anymore, and it’s my mission to raise him the old-fashioned way.”
Father and son respect the environment and farm sustainably, diversifying their breeding efforts to make it viable.
“When mining falls over, agriculture is the only thing that keeps us going,” says Tyson.
“It’s been said that by 2050 there will be a global food shortage, well who will be the king of the castle then?
“Foreign investment is all over farming and it irks me that our government is slow off the mark to protect it.”
“We need to get kids interested in agriculture, not sell everything off.”
While his class mates are slicking their hair back with “tonnes of gel”, Jackson is at his grotty best on the land, calming plotting his future.
“If I feel strongly about it I can do anything,” he says.
The Melbourne-based Foundation for Young Australians, which runs programs to nurture entrepreneurial talent, described Jackson as “unique”.
Chief executive Jan Owen said FYA was seeing more and more youth deliver “incredible” projects, more so when given the right skills and opportunities to do so.
But FYA data shows entrepreneurs in the 18 to 24 age bracket are under-represented, with only 8.7 per cent starting new businesses compared to the average 13.1 per cent across all ages.