by Kate C
Publish date
2 September 2011
Comments (25)

My friend Jen recently introduced me to a card game called Chook-Chook! through a much-loved set passed down from her great aunt, still played with competitive vigour at family gatherings. Described as "an interesting & amusing parlor game for young and old", it's actually a raucous free-for-all in which you trade chickens and sell their eggs followed by convoluted accounting in shillings and pence.

After a couple of rounds of this splendidly noisy and frantic card game I was hooked and wanted to know more. It seemed there might be a set somewhere in the museum's collections, and sure enough, we have a lovely set.

  Chook-Chook! box Chook-Chook! box. The label shows a farmer running after a squawking chicken. (HT 4667).
Image: Joanne Ely & Sally Jones
Source: Museum Victoria

According to BoardGameGeek, Chook-Chook! was published in 1920. I've now seen three different types of packaging; this early one on Flickr looks to be the oldest and perhaps original style. Jen's set looks a bit more recent than that and her dad remembers playing it with his cousins in the late 1940s and early 1950s. There are advertisments for Chook-Chook! peppered throughout Australian newspapers in the National Library of Australia's Trove newspaper archive but its publisher and country of origin are unclear.

I think it's probably a local game since the word 'chook' seems a very Australian term (although it does have UK origins). I wonder too whether any other country would devise a game where you play at being a poulterer and you squawk chicken breeds.

Chook-Chook! cards The cards of Chook-Chook! The English Game is one of the breeds of chicken that players rear.
Image: Joanne Ely & Sally Jones
Source: Museum Victoria

If you'd like your own game of Chook-Chook! (and I heartily recommend it) the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine holds a scan of the cards once hosted by the former Melbourne City Museum. However it's missing a scan of one crucial card – the one that tells you how much your eggs sell for each month. Here it is from MV's Chook-Chook!:

Monthly egg price card The all-important Chook-Chook! card detailing monthly prices for eggs.
Source: Museum Victoria

Do you know anything about the origins of Chook-Chook!? 


Wellcome Library blog: From the Game of Goose to Snakes and Ladders

Comments (25)

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Louisa 2 September, 2011 12:03
Important note to new players - if you are allocated 'English Game' (pictured), get up, leave the Chook Chook table, and go and make yourself a nice cup of a tea because you are never going to win - it's not even worth trying. I know from bitter experience.
Len 2 September, 2011 18:09
Evidence for Australian origin. Remember this originates before battery hens and controlled lighting on poultry farms. The price list has lower prices for (our) spring and summer when hens lay more, and higher prices for winter (less eggs) and for December (Christmas - what the market will bear ;-). If it was UK origin, the seasons would be t'other way round. Laaangshan! Laaaangshan!
Jen Makin 4 September, 2011 22:49
Can I note that Louisa is wrong, and that in the hands of an eggsperienced player, English Game can more than hold their own.
Diana Hill 4 August, 2012 12:01
Hi. I have made a set of the cards - 61 in total - so some had to be put on cardboard and the glue I used on the playing cards didn't stick the first time. (The setting cards I believe should be smaller and a different colour from the rest.) II'm a complete novice and I am finding the original instructions really difficult to follow. I was just wondering if you or anyone else might possibly be willing to rewrite them please. My mother used to adore this game as a child and I'd love to know what all the fuss is about. Thanks.
Adam 9 January, 2015 20:12
Hello I am currently involved in a game of chook chook. In response to your earlier comments i would like to express my displeasure and utter frustration and outrage at the "English so called Game" card! Currently i've had very little "game" and am enjoying my 4th cup of strong black tea.
Jennifer Davey 24 October, 2011 08:47
I have the cards but no instructions. Does anyone know how to play?
Kate C 3 November, 2011 13:57

Jennifer, the instructions are included with the scan of the cards - see the link in the post. Let us know how you go!

Kristy Neuendorf 11 February, 2013 15:52
Hi, Anyone know where i could buy card game Chook Chook? thanks kristy
Zymoyan 2 October, 2013 12:14
Where can I buy a Chook Chook game
Candy B. 12 November, 2013 12:12
Hi. My husband was reminiscing about this card game which he loved as a child. I'd love to get some cards or a copy of them. Any anyone help?
Boyd Rayward 2 January, 2014 18:23
We have just found a pack of chook chook cards but without the rules of play and we suspect with one or two cards missing. I can't seem the site on the Wayback Machine as stated above and in Kate C's note - either searching under chook chook or Museum of Victoria. Can any one help with this please? I may not be searching the Wayback Machine properly?
Kate C 4 February, 2015 16:43
Hi Boyd, you shouldn't need to search the Wayback Machine - just hit the link in the post. 
robyn bendeich 27 November, 2014 21:46
I have a game in the same packaging but it is called Zoo has a picture of a elephants head on it then underneath it says An Exciting & Amusing Parlor game. Just interested if anyone knows any history about this game. Thanks Robyn
Heather 21 February, 2015 18:30
Hello Robyn I also have a game of Zoo. Which belonged to my father. He was born in 1924 so they must have been produced in the late 1920's I presume. I would also like to know a little more about the game. We used to play snap with these cards when we were kids.
Mike Russo 22 November, 2015 06:42
Hello Robyn. Did you ever find out the rules of ZOO. I also have a set of cards.
Katharine 28 December, 2014 11:50
We grew up playing this game with my grandparents from Tasmania. We have a very precious dog-eared set of these cards. We still play with our children who enjoy the quirkiness and the rowdiness. There is some good information and a copy of the rules in the following links. Enjoy! 
stuart 3 March, 2015 20:45
Does the instructions for Chook Chook apply to Zoo?? Or is it different?
Alan Watson 15 September, 2015 18:47
I remember playing as a kid in the early 1950s. I would love to have a set now to play with my grandkids. I remember that if you had Black Spanish chooks you almost always won.
Marcia 6 January, 2016 23:18
I have been searching fir thus game fir 20 years can anyone tell me where I can buy it? I used to play it with my grandmother and now I am one would love to play it with my grand daughter. Many thanks
William Grattan 7 January, 2016 09:17
As a child in the 50's and 60's we as a family played Chook Chook as a regular event and found that it was great fun. I still have the complete set of cards, the exact ones that we played. Did the English know what a Chook was, as on my first trip to the UK, I refered several time that I would cook a Chook for the evening meal and they had no idea what I was talking about, the same went at breakfast time, when I asked the friends, would you like a boiled goog,(egg)(am not sure if that is the correct spelling), likewise I had to explain that.
neil c 25 February, 2016 22:43
Hi, l have a complete set of chook chook cards and all instructions, scoring sheet, egg prices etc, also goose cards included.I think it's an original set from the twenties in a good original sliding box priced @1/3d if anybody is interested.
Susanne 30 November, 2016 22:05
You can now buy a modern version of Chook Chook , saw it advertised today on Backyard Poultry on Facebook. Our Poultry Club is going to buy 10 sets to sell to members.
Garry 2 December, 2016 20:41
I remember playing Chook Chook with my whole family and grandparents in the 1960's. It can best be described as continual uproar ..shrieks of laughter ..great fun.. very fond memories
Krisha 11 January, 2017 13:39
We were introduced to this game by my aunt in the 90s with a very poor quality photocopied set and her verbal rules - heaps and heaps of fun. In her family version you could collect any breed of chook you liked each month (depending on what you were dealt in your hand - drama if two of you tried to collect the same variety) and this avoided the inequality of the various breeds. I was surprised to see that you had to stick to one breed when I read the 'official' rules - I think our way was more fun and cutthroat.
Sue 18 May, 2017 13:04
I have a complete set of ZOO with instructions. There is an adhesive label on the box saying 'Made in Australia'. Does anyone know who manufactured these games? Back of the cards appear to be the same pattern as for CHOOK CHOOK.
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