How Backyard Chickens Benefit Kids

One Easter, my husband suggested that we get a few chicks and convert the back of our shed into a coop. I was very hesitant (especially since I was about five months pregnant at the time, we could get orders to move, etc.) but he convinced me eventually — and I’m so glad he did!

Here’s a synopsis of our experience owning chickens. We got four Easter Eggers at a local chicken swap and six Golden Comets from Rural King. Two of the Golden Comets only lasted a few days, but the others did great. Our daughter loved taking them out of their tiny coop and holding them. She would take them on a walk around the yard and the black Easter Egger “Blackhawk” was her favorite.

Then, three of the Easter Eggers ended up being roosters. We live in a suburban neighborhood, so roosters are not technically allowed. Plus, he crowed very loudly at all the right times. He was a great rooster and it was a bummer to see him and the two others go.

We watched the remaining chicks grow into laying hens. They started laying in late September but never used the nesting boxes. They laid in the most inconvenient spot to reach in the coop, so my daughter would crawl in and collect the eggs.

We forgot to shut the coop door one night and brought in our German Shepherd as usual. By the next morning, we had lost all the chickens. Such a pity.

Within a few weeks, we decided to purchase some pullets from a local farm. We got two Sapphire Gems, two Easter Eggers, and one Wyandotte. Unfortunately, they were in molt when we got them (the seller failed to mention that) so egg production was very low. Now, we’re at the end of the molting process and looking forward to some delicious, multi-colored eggs.

What has been interesting is comparing how the OG chickens behave versus the new chickens. The old chickens would let us hold them and come up to us if we came outside. The “new” chickens have never let us hold them and are very skittish, even after several months with us. I would recommend raising chicks instead of buying pullets if you aren’t in a rush. There are so many advantages to having chickens while your kids are young!

Educational Benefits

Toddlers learn to be gentle as they observe chicks grow and change. They learn what signs indicate that the hen is ready to lay. They feather out and grow a comb (the red on the top of their beaks) and wattles (the red things on their chins). Also if a chicken squats when you reach out to pet them, they are either getting ready to or already laying.

Our toddler collects and counts eggs, cleans parts of the coop, fills the nesting boxes, and checks if eggs are still good to eat. We came home to about 40 eggs one time and I set up the “Float Test” to see if all the eggs were still good. We place all the eggs (one by one) into a bowl of water. If the egg floats, it’s gone bad. If it stays on the bottom of the bowl but tilts upward, it needs to be used ASAP. If it remains on the bottom and stays horizontal, it is freshest.

We learned that unwashed, fresh eggs last up to two or three weeks unrefrigerated. They can last up to three months in the fridge. Once the protective coating (AKA “bloom”) is washed off, the eggs need to be refrigerated.

Appreciation for Food

Toddlers also learn the process of how food is made. They can collect the eggs, wash a few, and crack them open for breakfast. Children are so curious by nature. They will most likely ask what the yolk is called, etc. Ergo, they learn the anatomy of the egg.

We had been composting for some time, but would dump it in the garden beds before we had chickens. My daughter frequently reminds me to put her banana peels in the compost since we now give it all to the chickens. She has also been picking up on what is and is not compostable.

Emotional Benefits

Children can also learn compassion and comforting techniques. One of our hens broke its leg and was limping around the yard, not getting much food or water. Our toddler put a towel on the chicken and brought it oats and water in a little dish. She also didn’t leave its side for hours. It was great to see the chicken get stronger and our toddler connect the benefits of food, water, and nurture.

Learn About Death & Food Chain

Your kids may also end up learning about the food chain. We unfortunately forgot to shut the coop one night and lost our our chickens. Initially, we thought the neighborhood fox ate them. When I explained this to our daughter, I said “foxes eat chickens just like chickens eat bugs.”

Her response was: “I’m happy for the foxes. I’m sad for the chickens.” Honestly, I think I was more upset about losing the chickens than she was! We later determined that a hawk probably killed them since they were decapitated but not eaten. There is also a hawk’s nest a few doors down from us.

It’s fun!

You can name the chickens with your toddler or let your kids feed them treats. We let the chickens roam outside of the run so she can feed them from her hand. She also loves to just run around with them. Children *want* to help, so including them in chores may seem like it takes 10 times as long (and it does sometimes), but it does pay off in the long run. The child gains independence and confidence, and they start to form good habits.

Just the other day, I showed my daughter to dump the water and refill it. Just like every other activity involving water, she loved it.

In Conclusion

We have learned a lot together; how to raise chickens, the molting process, how to encourage egg laying, etc. Our toddler has grown in confidence, gained so much knowledge, and looks forward to taking care of her chickens.

2 responses to “How Backyard Chickens Benefit Kids”

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