Image 'Poultry house, Challicum', 1851

TLF ID R3304

This is a watercolour by Duncan Cooper that depicts the poultry house at Challicum, a sheep run west of Ballarat in western Victoria. Two of the Djapwurrong people (the Indigenous inhabitants of this region) are shown sitting by a smoking fire next to a temporary bark shelter. Various chickens are also shown pecking in the grass in front of the poultry house, which is shaded by two established gum trees. The watercolour, which measures 12.8 cm x 19.3 cm, is the seventh watercolour included in a field album that Cooper called 'The Challicum Sketch Book'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an aspect of Challicum - in 1842 Cooper and the brothers George and Harry Thomson took over the sheep run, which they called Challicum, from Alexander and Colin Campbell; like many Englishmen in this period, the three men were lured to Australia by tales of the wealth to be made from wool; Challicum proved a successful venture but many other newcomers were defeated by the hardships of frontier life.
  • It shows the poultry house at Challicum - henhouses needed to be well constructed in order to protect the hens from predators such as dingoes; this henhouse is made of timber slabs with a bark roof; the entrances were set high up in the wall to discourage predators; the detachable ramp (which provided access for the hens in and out of the shed) was removed at night and the large sheet of bark (on the left of the building) was used to cover the entrances to stop marauding animals getting in and the hens getting out; the roosts were also placed in the rafters, under the roof line, to safeguard the hens from attack.
  • It indicates that chickens were kept at Challicum - squatters kept hens in order to have fresh eggs; as squatting runs were isolated from the main settlements, squatters had to be self-sufficient; eggs also added variety to a diet that consisted mainly of mutton and damper.
  • It provides an example of a temporary shelter built by the Djapwurrong people - the presence of the Djapwurrong indicates that Cooper and the Thomson brothers had good relations with the local Indigenous people; some other squatters in the area refused to allow the Djapwurrong people to camp on their runs; white settlement led to the dispossession of Indigenous communities for whom the land was a source of food; this dispossession, which at times led to violent conflict with some squatters, contributed to the dispersion and decline of the Indigenous population.
  • It possibly depicts some of the Djapwurrong people who were custodians of a sacred site of major significance in the region - during the Dreaming, a creature which the Djapwurrong people believed to be a bunyip died on the banks of Fiery Creek; the outline of its shape was preserved and the turf removed; the outline was renewed annually and by the mid-1850s the shape was about 9 metres long.
  • It may show some of the Djapwurrong people who were employed at Challicum after all the station hands deserted to join the Clunes gold rush of 1851 - had it not been for the aid of the Djapwurrong people, lambing would not have been successfully completed in that year.
  • It suggests that squatters occupied land in western Victoria in this period - squatters moved into the Port Phillip district and illegally occupied crown (government) land from the mid-1830s; after 1835 squatters paid the colonial government in New South Wales a £10 annual licence fee to pasture their stocks and in 1847 they won the right to lease their runs for up to 14 years, with the option of purchasing the whole station or a minimum of 160 acres (64 hectares) at one £1 per acre, or of renewing the lease at the end of this period.
  • It is an example of the work of Duncan Cooper (c1813-1904), an amateur artist who recorded the establishment of Challicum from his arrival in 1842 until his retirement in 1853, when he returned to London - his collection of sketches and watercolours, most of which were compiled into 'The Challicum Sketch Book', provides one of the few pictorial records of squatting in this period.
Year level

F; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements