DOZENS of prize-winning birds have been stolen from a secluded Koroit homestead, leaving the owners more than $3000 out of pocket.
Police believe thieves with expert knowledge of the poultry industry were behind the late-night raid, with more than 30 hens and roosters stolen from their pens.
Koroit poultry breeder Talina Whittington said she was shocked to find all her chicken hatches open on Saturday morning after a break-in the previous evening.
“We were watching the footy on television and saw a car drive past a number of times, probably six or seven times, which was a little odd,” Mrs Whittington said.
“Now we know they were circling the block, waiting for their opportunity to break in.
“I went to bed around 10pm and the dogs started barking.
“Then there was some more barking and one of the dogs was outside an open gate, which was unusual, because I remembered closing it only a few hours before.”
The next morning Mrs Whittington went to check her chicken enclosure to find every coop wide open and most of her prize flock gone.
The stolen birds are pekin bantams, an ornamental fowl generally sold as pets for children and are rather unproductive egg layers.
“Usually with foxes, there’s only one or two doors open, but this was planned,” she said.
“They (thieves) we’re obviously waiting for us to go to bed before they striked. Pekin bantams are a highly-prized bird. Altogether they’d be worth more than $3000.”
Sergeant Pat Day, of Koroit police, said it was highly likely the thieves were industry experts given they carefully selected prize-winning fowls.
“If anybody has information about a vehicle that was seen along the Nine Mile Creek Road about 9.30pm (on July 4), it would be very welcome,” he said.
“The birds that were stolen were particularly expensive and whoever stole them would have known their value.”
Sergeant Day said the Koroit fowl theft followed a similar incident in Warrong a fortnight ago, with 15 finches stolen from the district south of Hawkesdale.
He said no link between the two incidents was clear at this stage.
Mrs Whittington said south-west poultry breeders had been targeted during the past 12 months, with a Heathmere farm hit by thieves in March.
“It’s awful. You wouldn’t have thought there’d be people who would go out of their way to steal someone’s years of hard work,” she said.