Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins

Photos by Andie Bilaniwskyj-Zarins

What do you do?

I am a qualified horticulturist and landscape designer with permaculture training and values. I am also a holistic manager. Everything does something and has a purpose. I also felt, spin and am in a band with my husband and some great friends. My motto is ‘it starts with a dream for it to become a reality’. Give anything a go because it will lead to another and another.

Tell me about your farm.

Myself, my husband and our three children have been on our property of 93.7 acres for going on twelve years. Having grown up in the Bega Valley it was a place I dearly called home.

Our mixed farm enterprise is mainly undulating granite hills with some basalt and a 1km winding creek with deep pools running through the middle of it. We have extensive beautiful views that are always breathtaking, so daily work life is very hard but always a pleasure.

Even though we are vegetarian, all of our animals still work for us in their own way. The geese clean up all the old fruit in the orchard and the mixed grazing/browsing animals maintain the paddocks and private forestry. You can never get enough ‘POO’ I say! We have chickens, ducks (great for snail and funnelweb spider plagues), geese, sheep, goats, donkeys, cows, camels. Even guinea pigs eat the lawn around the vegie gardens. I also take into account the native wildlife of which we have numerous bird species, mammals, reptiles and fish.

What businesses do you run from your farm?

Like any business ours is always evolving. Over the past five years I have been doing the local market circuit selling value-added wool and fibre that we grow on farm from a liquorice-all-sorts collection of unwanted and rescued sheep. I wash, dye and card the wool for spinners, weavers and craftspeople. I like to promote rare breeds of wool-producing animals and other fibre animals such as camels of which we have five! I also have neighbours and friends who knit, and spin for me as well.

In the warmer months of the year the herb plant nursery takes over in which I use everything on farm in my potting mix. My secret ingredient is camel manure!!!!! What a fabulous thing to have.

Tell me about the community you live in and your involvement in it.

It’s been a joy and a blessing to have joined the community of Candelo and its greater surrounds. We call it ‘The Magic Valley’! Being part of a small community involves being part of its functions. I am a member of the CWA, the Candelo Show Society, The Red Cross and I also do numerous guestspeaking spots at charity functions.

What’s it like being on River Cottage Australia?

In River Cottage Series One Episode One. I had the fun time of meeting and filming with both Hugh and Paul at our farm, who got to kiss the camels and take home many plants to start their vege garden in Tilba.

I was invited back in Series Two Episode Three to get Paul’s chickens ready for show! I have now done five filming days with the crew from River Cottage and have loved the experience and people involved.

What does the future hold for you?

Still to come for us are the planting of nut orchards, more high quality timbers and herbs, some fencing and when all of my kids are independent I might become a vet!!! 


Chickens like hanging out with humans and family pets also. So which breed or mixed breed is good for your family?

Attending an agricultural or poultry club show will present a good selection of different breeds and the breeders are on hand to take orders and offer advice.

There are two types of birds, large or standard and bantam or true bantam.

Large or standard birds are divided into light large and heavy large. Light large birds such as a Silkie, Leghorn or Hamburg, are good egg layers, fit, agile, sprightly, alert and are likely to roost high as most can fly. Large heavy breeds are generally dual purpose (meat and eggs), robust, hungry, happy to roost low and are generally aloof. Examples are Australorp, Sussex and Orpington.

Generally the bantams are purpose bred smaller birds than their larger counterparts. The true bantam is breed specific and true to type, meaning there is no larger counterpart. The Rosecomb and Belgiums are an example of these. Consider your enclosure if keeping bantams as they are an easy target for birds of prey.

Chickens, no matter what type or size, are also categorised as a soft feather such as a Rhode Island Red, or hard feather such as the Old English Game. As the names suggest, Soft Feather birds are loosely feathered and flouncy to handle, whilst Hard Feather birds are tight and muscly in the hand.

Mixed breed chickens can be any mix of any of the pure-breds described, taking the best bits that are desired for your chicken.

So do your research to best match your chicken to your home or business circumstances.


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