Keeping chickens is a wonderful way to educate children about the lifecycle of animals and show them the many benefits of keeping any farm animal. It’s not just the never-ending supply of eggs on toast that children will enjoy – keeping chickens is a rewarding experience that will teach children of all ages the value of animal life and companionship.
Learning to handle your chickens
If you choose to buy your chickens when they are still chicks, there’s a better chance of children forming bonds with them. Handling chicks regularly is easy and great fun for children, a surefire way to make them feel comfortable and confident around the hens. Some chicken breeds – the Silkie and Sussex, for example – actually enjoy being occasionally pet, not unlike cats! Always remind your kids to be gentle with the birds, though, whether chicks or adults. Even a ‘tame’ hen should be approached slowly and with caution and respect – sudden moves trigger a chicken’s instinct to flap, squawk and panic!
It’s important that children learn to wash their hands whenever they’ve been touching the chickens, or after washing and cleaning the coop or feeding the hens. Chickens, just like us, have all kinds of bacteria which are healthy for them, but not necessarily for us!
Daily chicken activities
Chickens need tending every day, but they are very undemanding as pets. This is a great combination for kids, as it teaches them about routine and allows them to enjoy time with the chickens without feeling it’s too much of a chore.
Getting kids involved in the daily activities that keep chickens happy and healthy is fun and beneficial in giving children a sense of responsibility. The first job of the day is opening up the coop. Children love getting out into the garden after breakfast, and once they’ve refilled the feed and water bowls, it’s time to open the coop and let the chickens into the enclosure. Again, these are simple but meaningful tasks that children will enjoy.
Healthy chickens eat and drink lots in a day, so ask your children to check out our guide on Feeding and Watering Your Chickens to turn them into instant experts!
Cleaning out the chicken coop is probably a job for children of 11+, but consider asking a young child to help out too. They can certainly assist with putting new bedding and toys into the coop once the cleaning is complete. It can be fun setting up your chickens’ coop in new and different ways, and you can really tell when they love their homes!
Children love going into the chicken coop to find freshly laid eggs, and if it’s in time for breakfast, that’s even better! You could teach your child to collect and (if necessary) gently clean the egg, and if they are yet to learn any cooking skills, a boiled egg is a great place to start! Perhaps soon you’ll be getting breakfast in bed…
Teaching your children responsibility
Owning chickens is a great way to teach children responsibility. By looking after hens, a child can learn that a little hard work and reliability puts food on the table – literally, in this case!
Having a pet is sometimes people’s only reason to go outside first thing in the morning, and any pet owner would tell you that this improves their lives in countless ways. Just like walking a dog, going out into the backyard to feed the chickens can be a fun way to introduce routine, responsibility and regular fresh air into your kids’ lives.
Get your kids involved in choosing the chicken breed
If you want a friendly hen for your kids, Silkies are an excellent choice, as they are known for their affectionate nature. Other child-friendly breeds include Australorp, Cochin, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Sussex and Wyandotte.
For more information on how to get children involved with chicken-keeping, including which breeds to choose, check out our article Chicken Breeds for kids.
Tameness isn’t guaranteed in any hen, though, and the most important thing is ‘socializing’ them from – i.e. handling them – from a young age. If children spend time with the hens as soon as they arrive in the coop, they’ll be well on the way to making a feathered friend for life.
Whichever breed you choose, getting your children involved in the decision will help them feel responsible and connected with their chickens from day one. And then there’s all the fun of choosing names for the hens!
Having fun with your chickens at Easter
There are many Easter traditions that involve chicken eggs, the ever-popular egg hunt being the most obvious example. Try hiding eggs that your chickens have laid themselves – it’s lots of fun and a good way of working up an appetite before an egg-based breakfast!
Another Easter tradition is the painting of boiled eggs, which is a great way to introduce children to the weirder world of traditional art. And why not go a step further and go egg-rolling – another fine old British tradition! Find a hill and roll your painted eggs down the hill – the last one to crack and release its hard-boiled yolk wins! You’ll sometimes find an egg that seems unbreakable, no matter how many times it’s rolled – the challenge then becomes trying to break it, by throwing it as high as possible!
So, whether it’s using eggs for cakes or quiches, rolling hard-boiled eggs down a hill, or just spending meaningful social time with the chickens, there are loads of reasons why hens make great pets for children!