chookas / chukas
...uniquely Australian. It seems to have come into use during the early days of J.C. Williamson’s dominance of the theatre scene in Australia. In the early 1900s chicken was regarded as a treat (even in my experience ‘chicken in the basket’ was the most expensive dish on a menu). As most shows paid fees depending on the box-office take, a full house meant that the performers would be able to afford a chicken meal. The cry ‘chook it is’ was shortened to ‘chookas’, and eventually used by performers to wish each other a successful show regardless of the number of people in the auditorium....
- from ”Behind Ballet ... the blog of The Australian Ballet.”
...In Australia, the term “chookas” can be used instead. According to one oral tradition, one of the performers would check audience numbers. If there were not many in the seats, the performers would have bread to eat following the performance. If the theatre was full they could then have “chooks” — Australian slang for chicken— for dinner. Therefore, if it was a full house, the performer would call out “Chookas!” It is now used by performers prior to a show regardless of the number of patrons; and may be a wish for a successful turnout....
Maybe that sounds a bit too neatly fanciful. But “chook” appears to be an Australian term for at least some domestically raised birds as far back as 1906. From “The Emu: official organ of the Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, Volumes 5-6, by Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, 1905-1906, page 36:
Could “chook” meaning chicken be from the onomatopoetic “chook, chook, chook” = “cluck, cluck, cluck” after the sound of a mother hen leading her brood? Pure speculation on my part.