Two-hundred chickens are being hailed as heroes for decimating a population of intrusive Australian pests on Great Barrier Island, while providing tens of thousands of eggs to Aucklanders in need.
The chicken army was sent from the mainland to sort out the plague of skinks on the Hauraki Gulf island, and they provided more than 60,000 free-range eggs to the Auckland City Mission while they were at it.
The skinks compete with native species and were starting to displace them.
Auckland Council's Great Barrier biosecurity advisor Shanti Morgan said the novel idea came about after suggestions by local landowners, who'd heard about domestic ducks controlling things like snails.
The chooks were sent from the mainland in December 2017 and put into three fenced-off pens.
"Our preliminary results are suggesting that they did a really, really good job and in two of the three pens we didn't find any skinks."
The eggs were initially used in bait traps, before a council staff member realised their potential for helping those doing it tough.
"It's amazing. I didn't know much about chickens before this experiment and it turns out they lay a lot of eggs, which was an awesome by-product. And being able to help the Auckland City Mission was really great for Auckland Council."
The laid nearly 62,000 eggs; that's over 5000 dozen with a retail value in excess of $38,500.
They were delivered for free every week by SeaLink ferries, in cartons provided by SkyCity.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called the initiative a huge success.
"We work closely with the City Mission to help those struggling, and this has been a great example of collaboration between Auckland Council, SeaLink and SkyCity to help those in need."
The 200 chickens have gone into retirement with Great Barrier locals now, while the council considers expanding its poultry pest control programme.