Chickens can teach us a lot about ourselves and the world around us. And if you’re homeschooling your children during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be looking for a fun project that has many layers of educational value. Of course, chickens can provide just that.
If you choose to utilize chickens and animal husbandry to educate yourself and your children you can find ways to touch on (at minimum) the following topics:
- Food Safety
- Legal Issues
Let’s break them down a bit to see how each of these important educational topics can be incorporated with raising chickens.
Teaching History With Chickens
You may wonder how your child can learn about history from raising chickens, and this may require a little prompting from yourself, but you can teach children about the role of chickens in history.
For example, if your child has a Dominique chicken, you can teach them about the history of the breed and how it supported American settlers through some of the most difficult years in American history.
Looking back at the role chickens have played in our lives, for centuries, can help you plot out an interesting history lesson for your child.
Teaching Children the Biology of a Chicken
You can incorporate biology into your chicken-raising adventure by teaching children about how a chicken’s body and systems operate. Physiology lessons can be tweaked for younger students, and also for those in advanced biology stages of learning, by utilizing diagrams of the main body parts of a chicken.
Going further, children can learn about the differences between genus and species by learning about avians vs. mammals, for example.
Lastly, children (depending on their readiness and parental approval) can learn about how chickens reproduce, the necessity of a male and female, and the development of a fetus in the egg during incubation.
Similar to biology, children who are interested in learning about breeding animals, or farming, can learn about selective breeding, genetic traits, and how to breed chickens for the better.
Children can also learn about what it means to be a responsible animal breeder by following the guidelines of breed associations, for example. Some associations and clubs have discounted, or free, memberships for children!
Hygiene Around Chickens
Chickens, unfortunately, can be very messy and dirty animals. One of the first things you’ll want to teach your kids is how to be clean, safe, and how to keep their chickens clean.
It doesn’t take long for chicken dropping to pile up under their favorite roost…and when that happens, chickens can get sick due to ammonia, parasites, and other filth-related ailments.
Teaching children that their chickens will get sick if they aren’t kept clean is a good way to teach them about hygiene in general.
These are the kind of life-skills that will transfer over into their everyday lives.
Chicken Math of a Different Kind
Ever heard of chicken math? Well this is a little more than just watching your flock grow exponentially. Young children can learn counting skills from egg counting, and older students can learn about percentages through hatch rates. If selling eggs, children can learn how to make change at their egg stand.
Lastly, if you’ll be butchering chickens, kids can learn how to weigh a chicken and determine a dressed weight before butchering…and also figure out the price per lb.
The Business of Chickens
Speaking of price per pound, older children with the ability to make change, can sell eggs at their own farmstand, or even with parents at a farmer’s market.
Children can learn customer service skills, inventory management (eggs!), profit loss information, and even investment opportunities (ie buying that pretty chicken that lays an egg a day).
Of course, these terms will be foreign to your kids without prompting, but the concepts are what will stick with them as they grow. In fact, they may even think back to their time as a chicken farmer when they reach those subject areas in school.
Children, who help raise chickens, should be taught about safe food handling guidelines to ensure no one gets sick. Teaching children how to wash eggs, keep coops clean, and clean food preparation areas will not only help them understand hygiene, but also the weight of responsibility that comes with handling and preparing food for others to consume.
Legal Issues, Policies, Procedures
This may be an area of education for older kids, but when raising and selling food to consumers, there are guidelines and inspections that must be followed in order to ensure the safety of the consumer.
If children are old enough, they can also learn about how to look into the requirements of retailers or food preparation services in their area. This would be a fantastic interview project for teens!
Important Life Skills
Chickens can teach children many different facets of education topics, but even more, raising chickens can teach children important life skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. They’ll learn things like accountability, responsibility, sharing, empathy, compassion, and critical thinking skills.
For example, when a chicken falls ill, critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be at the forefront of finding a solution to the problem. And if a solution is not feasible, and the chicken passes away, a difficult but equally important lesson can be learned…that life is fragile, and even though they’ve done everything they could, sometimes nature just takes its course.
Some lessons and topics are harder to teach, and maybe a little more difficult for children to swallow, but nevertheless, they are important lessons that can teach them social-emotional skills in the future. They can learn how to cope, grieve, be more patient, and accepting of flaws.
And while these may seem like unlikely lessons to learn, these are the quiet lessons that are learned every day and resurface when children face them in their daily lives.