Every night during tourist season is a fowl night at Tambo’s Royal Carrangarra Hotel in western Queensland. There’s fowl language, fowl play and definitely a few good eggs.

Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick

At 10 minutes to five each afternoon in the dry season visitors flock to the Royal Carrangarra Hotel in Tambo for a madcap afternoon featuring rainbow-coloured racing chooks.

Publican Ben Casey, with flowing red beard and pink-dyed hands, is the instigator and chief chicken trainer. He arrived in Tambo in 2018 looking for a pub to call home. “I wanted a small pub with an area out the back for caravan parking,” he says, sitting in the sprawling two-storeyed, 21-room Carrangarra. Its backyard is filled with an eclectic collection of animals named for Ben’s Johnny Cash obsession. There’s the male dog named Sue, a goat called The General and a sheep called Ira Hayes – and that’s before you get to the fowls.

“In Tambo I rang the butcher, baker and candlestick maker to get a feel for the town and talk about my ideas for chicken racing,” he says. “The town was already on the map for tourists with the famous Tambo Teddies and so all that was really missing was a bit of entertainment at night. I had originally started racing turkeys, but turkeys are miserable, angry, bullying animals. The dog and I were terrified of turkeys. So along came chickens – the perfect combination of smart and stupid.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #136

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2021