I’m a huge advocate for having children involved in raising livestock. One of the easier species of livestock to keep is chickens. Chickens are a great farm animal to get kids involved with. Chickens require just enough care that children can learn responsibility and don’t require that much help from adults.
One of the reasons that more children should own farm animals is all about learning. Raising an animal of any kind teaches a child responsibility. Children learn to take care of something and anticipate something’s needs other than their own. There is a ton of research out there to show that children raised with pets are much more compassionate and sympathetic than those raised without pets. Chickens are an excellent animal that can be used to teach even young children how to be responsible. Chickens are small enough that children can move them and their things if needed without asking for help from an adult. They are also pretty low maintenance when compared to other farm animals. Chickens require daily feed and water and the occasional treat. Let these chores become your child’s chores to do each day. You might be surprised to see him/her becoming more responsible for other tasks like putting their dishes away or cleaning their room without being asked!
Children that raise chickens will develop a sense of pride about their animals. It feels good to know that you’ve raised something and provided for it. This feeling is the same for kids just like it is for us. Your kids will become proud of the animals that they’ve raised. This will help build confidence in your children. If your child becomes extremely fond of his/her chickens, you may want to consider taking him to livestock shows. 4-H has an excellent program for children interested in showing poultry. Preparing for shows and attending them will not only give your child more responsibilities but they will be able to interact with other children that have similar interests. Showing livestock is a confidence builder and can help your child discover lifelong friendships.
You’ll also be proud to know that your child understands about food production. Children today are so far removed from the process of food production. In fact, many studies show that as many as 8/10 children don’t understand where eggs or milk comes from. When questioned about where eggs come from, many children can only answer ‘the grocery store’! They have no idea that eggs come from chickens! If your child raises chickens, he/she will understand where food comes from and will have a greater respect for their food.
A note about Salmonella safety:
- Children younger than 5 years old, people with weak immune systems, or the elderly should not handle or touch live chickens or other live fowl.
- Live poultry should never be snuggled, kissed, or held near human mouths.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after touching live poultry or anything associated with your flock. Hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are unavailable.
- Live poultry should never enter you house, especially bathrooms, or living areas where food and drink is served, stored, or prepared.
- Clean poultry equipment like waterers, feeders, and cages outside. Keep poultry care shoes and clothes separate from street everyday street clothes.
- Buy birds from hatcheries that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP).