When I decided to add chickens to our farm I wasn’t thinking about their educational value. I just wanted pretty birds that ate bugs and provided eggs. It wasn’t until after the chickens were grown and had been in their coop for a while that it really hit me how the whole thing was a great educational experience for my son… It just goes to show how much you learn just living life
Building the Coop
I found a picture of a coop that I liked online and asked my husband to build it for me. He and Big B spent the next few months working. I was very pregnant with Little B, so I mostly lounged around. Big B spent hours outside “helping” his dad build the coop, which mostly consisted of him drawing on the wood and pretending to hammer, but he was there through the whole process and showed interest in each step. Every few minutes you would hear “Ok what’s next dad” and when he got an answer it was always followed up with a “Why?” He was taking it all in and would explain to me what was going on when I would come out to check on them. Months later he is still extremely proud of the work that he did with his dad. If you go within 5 feet of the coop he will tell you all about how he and his dad built it.
Big B was not allowed to touch the chicks (see warning) but he loved watching them and observed me taking care of them. Like with everything, he was full of questions and learned a great deal about chickens in the few weeks that they lived in the brooder in the house.
Taking Care of the Chickens
Big B now helps to care for the chickens in many ways. He helps spread scratch, he collects plants (mostly dandelions) around the yard that he knows they like, and he helps “herd” them back into their coop. Since we have hawks, and hunting dogs that make their way onto our property we only let the chickens free range when we are outside. During those times he watches them and observes their behaviors. When we have guest he teaches them about his chickens. He talks about the chicken’s behaviors and eating habits, including the time he saw them catch a frog!
Benefits of Backyard Chickens for Children:
- Taking care of pets teaches responsibility and respect for animals.
- Watching animals grow from babies teaches about the life cycle.
- Observing the chickens laying eggs aids in teaching children where their food comes from.
- Being able to collect food (eggs) gives the children a sense of self-sufficiently.
- Observing the chickens free range teaches about chickens’ behaviors and feeding habits
- And on top of everything having backyard chickens provides your family with wonderful fresh eggs and hours and hours of entertainment.
Many suggest that you wait until all children in the household are above the age of 5 before adding chickens to your family. I have known many families, like us, who have had chickens and young children at the same time. The issue is that chicks from hatcheries and chickens can carry diseases, like salmonella, and it is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them. It is harder to ensure that children under 5 will keep their hands out of their mouth, nose or eyes while handling chicks and chickens. Salmonella can also have a more damaging effect on young children. Be very careful with your chicks because, even though it is extremely rare, they can pick up salmonella from the hatchery, and be sure to keep your coop clean and take measures to keep rodents and wild birds out of your chickens’ coop and feed, so they don’t catch Salmonella as adults. We don’t let Big B touch the chickens. He helps take care of them without actually coming in direct contact with them. Always keep in mind that they are wild animals and you should never be totally trusted. Keep an eye on your child at all times and practice good hygiene.