Birdman Jack hatches plan for long and healthy life
"SCARCE as hen's teeth," clucked champion fancy poultry breeder Jack Dykstra, 79, as he ruffled the feathers of a Sicilian buttercup.
"A rare and fascinating bird, he's depicted in 16th-century paintings in the Vatican Museum and is listed a 'threatened' species by the American Livestock Conservancy," said Jack, who also breeds pure silver and gold spangled and black Hamburghs, Australian Langshans and Partridge Wyandottes on his 1.6ha property at Doolandella, a suburb 17km south-west of Brisbane.
All of the breeds have won a multitude of blue ribbons and one of Jack's magnificent silver spangled hamburghs took out the rare poultry breed grand championship at this year's Royal Queensland Show.
Jack was 15 when he arrived in Queensland from Holland with his mother and father under the 10-pound assisted passage scheme.
"Dad had a hen farm in Holland and this inspired my love of rare poultry breeds," said Jack, who launched his hobby more than 50 years ago.
Since then he has sent thousands of chicks to rare fowl fanciers all over Australia.
"June to September is the prime breeding time for these birds, so it's all happening down in the hen house," he said.
Jack and his Australian wife Marie will soon be celebrating 55 years of marriage.
"It's been such a wonderful relationship and our six children, 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren all believe in the family unit," Jack said.
"We're all close to each other and like birds of a feather we flock together."
Jack says he's always been a bit of a showman - he was a professional breeder and trainer of greyhounds but gave that away 20 years ago to devote more time to breeding his rare fowls.
And showmanship runs in the family.
His son Russell Dykstra is a multi award-winning Australian actor of screen, stage and TV, best known for his portrayal of the character Barney in the popular ABC TV series Rake.
Jack's grandson Jeff Horn was Australia's best-performing boxer at the London Summer Olympics and is a top contender in the light welterweight division, so far winning most of his fights.
Marie - "the light and love of my life," says Jack - is an accomplished 3D paper tole artist and her art adorns the walls of her children's homes.
"She's a good cook, too, and can do wonderful things with eggs which are never in short supply here," Jack said.
Now Jack is preparing for the Rare Fowl Olympics in 2016.