Chickens may not seem like your top choice for a family pet, but as they become more and more popular, you may be surprised to learn that people can bond with a bird in the same way that they bond with a cat or a dog. Children especially can benefit and learn a lot of life lessons from raising chickens.
Our children have already learned so much at the farm and with our 12 chickens. Watching them have this experience has been invaluable to me. Knowing that they get tangible and intangible benefits from this involvement is an added bonus. I hope this is a phase in their lives they’ll remember forever.
Here are some of the lessons my children are learning from raising chickens, and some you’re could learn too.
Chickens make good – easy – pets
Chickens are fairly low maintenance once you’re up and running, and they are very social animals.
If raised right, may chickens will welcome attention and love being cuddled by their owners – including kids. Chickens all have their own unique personalities, similar to dogs and cats, and it can be a joy to watch them befriend your child and run up to them when they see them.
They also tend to make good companions because they like to follow you around the yard. They would probably follow you into the house and right up onto your couch if you let them (and some people do).
Letting kids pick out their names will give them a real sense of ownership and make them feel like that bird is “theirs.” They will be extra invested in the care of that bird too. Our kids named a few birds including Batman (a female), Robin (also a female), Roseabella, Violet and Mittens.
Where their food comes from
With more and more people wondering where their food comes from, raising chickens is a great way to help children understand this process. Until kids are around 6 or 7-years-old, a lot of them don’t even really understand what the chicken nugget in their happy meal is made from, let alone what an egg is.
Raising chickens for eggs, or even for meat can help them see that a lot goes into producing food for them and that fresh, great-tasting food is something to be thankful for.
Our Horizon Structures chicken coop will make egg collection easy when it comes time because it has easily, accessible nesting boxes. Our girls are only a few weeks away from being able to produce so I’m hoping that we will start getting some surprises soon.
Responsibility & animal care
Whether your kids help collect eggs, let the chickens out in the morning, close them up at night or even help clean the coop, having chickens can teach them how to care for and be responsible for another life. Our coop from Horizon Structures is easy to clean because it has an epoxied floor and pull out drawers under the rooster bar. The kids can even help scoop the chicken waste into a bucket without actually ever having to touch it thanks to this feature.
Daily chores are a good way to introduce structure into a child’s routine in a way that can be fun since they’re taking care of a pet. It all teaches them about contributing to the household too.
Immune system benefits
I think we can all agree that kids today have been a bit coddled. Most parents would probably put their children in a large plastic bubble if they could spare them from getting sick or catching something awful. However, having chickens – and any pet really – will help boost your child’s immune system. In fact, it’s been proven that pets – including barn yard pets – will help improve kids’ immune systems, especially within the first three months of life. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted on children in the Amish community. You can find more about it here and the whole study here.
Sustainable living & the circle of life
Chickens are a part of the food chain. They can help create a more sustainable environment in so many ways by eliminating food waste and contributing to the circle of life.
- They eat bugs so they are safe, effective and natural way to control bugs on your property
- Their waste can be used as compost and that then nourishes the soil for garden plants. If you have a garden, having chickens is a huge bonus.
- They can eat the scraps of a lot of left-over foods or foods that are close to expiring so you don’t waste precious food resources.
- Their eggs can and egg shells can be crushed and fed back to them to help with their calcium levels (which they need to help produce eggshells).
Connecting all these dots for children will really show them how the world is connected in small, but significant ways. It will help them to appreciate the role all animals play (including the bugs) on our planet. And it will help them to understand that everything has a place in the circle of life.
Safe handling of food
The jury is hung when it comes to washing chicken eggs. You can decide for yourself how your family wants to handle food safety with the chickens. The schools of thought are:
- Wash the eggs under warm water and don’t use harsh chemicals to clean them. Warm water causes the contents of the eggs to expand so bacteria doesn’t have room to enter the eggs. If you decide to wash the eggs you must refrigerate them.
- Don’t wash them. Eggs are naturally coated in a substance called bloom. The bloom protects the egg from bacteria entering through its shell. If you don’t wash the eggs then you can keep them at room temperature.
Whichever route you decide to go – or if you go with something in between, you can teach your kids the science and the why behind these actions.
Aside from washing the chicken eggs, having the kids around chickens reinforces the value of washing their hands and allows you ample practice for teaching them to do it right. (Warm water, soap, scrub for at least 20 seconds and rinse well.)
If you’re considering chickens, read this first to find out what you need to know beforehand. To see more of our coop, click here. For more information on Horizon Structures, click here.