A North Texas couple is in custody after four malnourished children were found in deplorable conditions at their rural home.

Andrew Joseph Fabila and Paige Isabow Harkings are each charged with four counts of criminal child endangerment. Both are 24.

Harkings also is charged with one aggravated assault count.

Investigators found the children, all of whom are age 5 or younger, in a barn outside the family home and just metres away from plentiful food kept under lock and key.

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Two of the old children were locked in a 90-by-90cm cage, while two younger children were found outside the cage but only partially clothed and smeared with feces and urine.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told the Dallas Morning News that deputies found the children while responding to a domestic disturbance call near Rhome, 32km north of Fort Worth.

The children were taken to Cook Children's Medical Centre in Fort Worth, but a hospital spokeswoman declined to disclose their conditions.

-AP