Whether you’re homeschooling your children or looking for an educational project for them to do at home, raising chickens is one of the most multi-faceted projects for your kids.
Aside from the ability to learn about animal husbandry and farming, there are a few key areas of education that are baked into a chicken-raising project.
Let’s take a look at what your children can learn from raising chickens.
Responsibility for the Life of Another Living Thing
Many children beg for their first puppy…and often they get a fish. And much to parental dismay, there’s quite the learning curve when it comes to educating kids about responsibilities (even with fish).
When it comes to chickens, these responsibilities come in the form of chicken chores that, if not completed, may mean the ultimate demise of the bird.
Without food, water, and the basic necessities, chickens (like all animals) will perish. Children can learn the significance of their actions when it comes to caring for (or lack thereof) other life forms.
Now, of course, you’d never allow your chickens to perish simply because your child didn’t understand the weight of their actions, but, it’s an excellent way to teach them to be responsible, and even accountable for their pets.
Children Learn Gentle Handling With Chickens
Baby chicks are extremely small, and if your child is at the age where he/she has the motor skills developed to be able to handle a small chick, it doesn’t take long for them to understand how fragile the life of the animal is.
When introducing your children to chicks, use the moment as a teaching moment about the fragility of life.
Children Will Learn Where Their Food Comes From
Today, it’s easy for youth to become disconnected from the source of their food due to convenience.
In a child’s mind, a store may magically produce meat, dairy, and vegetables, for example. A child without the knowledge of animal husbandry may miss out on the value of life, and life given, for their nutritional needs.
When you raise chickens with your childrens’ assistance, they’ll learn at an early age that chickens aren’t manufactured. Instead, they need tender loving care in order for them to even get to the store to be purchased and consumed.
Teaching children where their food comes from, at an early age, can instill a different sense of reality, as well as the ability to become self-sufficient if the need arises.
It may even give them a leg up when it comes to science-based classes in school because they understand the cycle of life from a different perspective than the other children in the classroom.
Safe Handling and Biosecurity
This may sound a little over-the-top, but the truth is, when children care for animals, they quickly learn about biosecurity issues.
Now, they probably won’t refer to these issues as “biosecurity.” In most cases, they’ll be talking about something like poop.
Regardless of the terminology, there are teaching moments based in biology, physiological systems, and of course cleanliness and hygiene.
The question of the chicken coming before the egg is one that will most likely always stump us, and our children. But one thing they won’t be confused about is how chickens reproduce.
If you keep a rooster in your flock, your kids will most likely come across the chickens mating, laying eggs, and hatching chicks.
While it isn’t the same as human reproduction, it’s a good (innocent) place to start introducing reproduction to your children if you’re both ready for it.
Even if you’re not the first one to bring it up, your kids may start asking questions about what they’re noticing…and that’s your moment to teach.
Circle of Life
Similar to understanding where their food comes from, the circle of life can be witnessed in different ways when raising chickens.
First, children can learn that their bodies need nourishment, and chickens can provide the nourishment they need to survive.
But chickens also need nourishment, and one of the ways chickens nourish their bodies is through protein.
That protein may come from a big ‘ol grasshopper, for example, which will have given it’s life for the chicken, just as the chicken does for the child.
A Child’s Comprehension of Death
Children comprehend death differently depending on their age (that’s not saying anyone really ever understands the finality of death).
With that being said, raising animals can help children understand that life ends.
And if they’ve never experienced loss in their life, it may be a good teaching moment when/if their favorite hen passes away.
This can also be linked back to accountability and biosecurity (if the chicken became ill, for example).
These conversations should be well-thought-out, and never accusatory. But, without saying much, children can learn from these moments.
Forget the lemonade stand.
If you want to teach your children about hard work and hard-earned-money, teach them the value of harvesting and selling their own eggs!
Of course, you’ll have to help your children do this legally and safely, but once your child learns the value of their efforts, they will pick up on what they need to do quickly.
For example, teaching children that neglecting to harvest their eggs every day leads to profit loss will make a big impact on them (especially if your child was trying to save money.)
You can also implement some business basics into the equation if your child is ready to learn more.
For example, using profit to invest in more chickens to increase revenue down the road is a great way to show them how to manage their own little business. Who knows, someday they may even own their own business!
Children Can Learn Patience from Raising Chickens
If you’ve opted to incubate chicks, raise them in a brooder, and release them into their coop, your children will learn what it means to be patient in a world that offers instant-gratification every day.
The 21 days it takes for a chick to hatch can feel painstakingly long for a child to wait, but when that first pip happens, the excitement is overwhelming (and the wait was well worth it!)
Children who have anxiety, are bullied, or just tend to be introverts can find mindful moments while caring for their chickens.
Because animals do not judge, they are excellent outlets for your children if they’ve had a rough day. Additionally, the responsibility of raising chickens will push your children to go outside, get exercise, and spend time in nature.
Chickens depend on your child to care for them and that responsibility (and successful care) can instill a sense of pride in your child. And if he or she lacks self-esteem, animal husbandry can certainly help build it for them.