Children and the Backyard Flock

July 19, 2017

A century ago most people grew up in small towns or on farms where they frolicked in creeks, climbed trees, watched wild animals and helped with chores. Back then kids cared for livestock, weeded gardens, and picked and preserved vegetables. They knew where food came from.

That’s changed. Nearly all kids today live in tidy manicured suburbs or cities. To them food comes nicely packaged and ready to cook from the supermarket. A youngster may not even connect supermarket eggs with chickens or a hamburger with a steer. A small backyard chicken flock is a delightful way for children to learn where food really comes from.

Recently, and all across the US, millions of suburban parents have built or bought a small coop and moved in a few hens, partly to produce delicious fresh eggs but mostly to connect their children to the earth and how it produces food. Even at an early age a child can help tend chickens. Caring for animals is a great way to instill responsibility. When a child brings eggs into the kitchen from chickens he or she helps care for, pride comes with the food.

Children are naturally curious about living things and growing up with a small flock is both educational and fun. Parents should make sure the relationship between their children and chickens is healthy.

Chickens, like all animals and humans, need nutritious food, clean living space, and water to thrive. Their coop should keep them comfortable in all weather and safe from predators. With some mentoring and monitoring children can learn responsibility by keeping waterers and feeders clean and filled and collecting eggs.

Some tips to keep in mind when children care for chickens include:

  • Encourage kids to help build and repair the coop. It is an outstanding way to learn basic carpentry and safe tool use.
  • Have kids help choose the breeds to be bought in the store or ordered. The best breeds for youngsters tend to be calm, quiet, and gentle. These are usually large bodied, brown egg layers, although bantams can also work well with children.
  • Help children understand that chickens require a balanced diet of healthy food. In exchange, they produce delicious eggs.
  • Encourage children to collect eggs and learn to cook with them. It helps them connect human food with living animals.
  • Help children understand that chickens are sensitive living animals that deserve to be raised humanely in a safe and clean environment – that chickens are livestock and not pets.
  • Make sure the entire family practices sanitation to keep both chickens and their owners healthy.

Although chickens raised in a clean coop and fed nutritious food are usually very healthy, they can carry salmonella. All people, but especially children, should wash well after handling chickens or eggs or visiting the coop. Kids may want to rush in from the coop to enjoy a snack. Make sure hands get thoroughly washed before handling food.

Some people consider their chickens pets but most poultry experts discourage it.  Although few families butcher their backyard chickens they often eat chicken bought in the supermarket or served in restaurants. It’s helpful for children to understand this connection.

A small backyard flock is a delightful educational resource as well as a source of delicious food. Keeping chickens is an outstanding family activity.

Post provided by Winding Pathways.

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