Top Tips for Raising Chickens and Children
Families with young children have a few more things to consider when choosing a chicken breed then other chicken owners. As an example, personality becomes much more important when looking for a breed that will bond with children. There are a number of useful tools online to help folks pick the best breed for their level of experience. It is also important to consider space, production, and interaction needs. Here, we’ll focus on families with young kids looking for their first flock of hens.
Here are the top tips for raising chickens and children together.
- Establish ground rules early. Children, even more than most adults, like to know what’s going on. Kids thrive on structure and routine. Giving them a clear picture of what life with the chickens will look like is essential. Designating a certain time of day or area of the house for ‘fun chicken time’ and another time/place for the chickens to be ‘working’ will help the kids adjust to the chickens and build an appropriate relationship with them. They need to understand that as animals chickens are both pets and livestock.
- Practice good hen hygiene. Chickens are carriers for a number of dangerous bacteria, most notably salmonella. That means that the kinds of behaviors children are most likely to enjoy – petting and cuddling – are also the ones most likely to spread an infection. It’s important to wash hands before and after any interaction with the birds, as well as taking care while collecting and preparing eggs. Good hygiene is the best way to prevent transmission of an at best unpleasant and at worst very dangerous illness.
- Keep the kids involved. Kids, especially small children, love to feel important and have the autonomy to make decisions. Keeping them actively involved in the decision-making process around the birds can be an enriching experience. As a suggestion, the littlest ones might get to name the hens, while their older siblings have a voice in the breed selection process. This involvement will help them feel emotionally invested in the flock as a collective, family project.
- Supervision is key. Children should never be left alone with the birds, especially when they’re both strangers to each other. Remember that both parties here – the children and the chickens – have the potential to hurt one another. When the kids play with the hens or help with chicken-related chores, there should always be a chicken-literate adult nearby. This responsible party can monitor the kids and watch out for potential accidents.
- Chickens aren’t toys. One of the hardest things for children (and some adults) to understand is that just because the chickens are pets doesn’t mean they’re required to meet every whim of their owners. There are times where the birds won’t be interested in interacting, and they have a tendency to express this with their beaks. Helping the kids understand this ahead of time will hopefully keep them from having to learn the hard way.
- Establish emotional boundaries where appropriate. If you have any intention of ever killing one of your birds for meat, draw a clear line between the chickens and pets – especially if you have a dog, cat, or other full pet. Otherwise, it will be easy for small children to get the idea that the family might one day kill and eat Fido. This is why establishing expectations and boundaries ahead of time is crucial.
Raising chickens in a family with kids can be hugely rewarding for everyone involved. However it does mean the adults have to take on a few more responsibilities in regard to safeguarding both the kids and the hens from one another. These Top Tips for Raising Chickens and Children can help. Luckily, a few precautions – like picking a child-friendly breed and establishing expectations with the kids beforehand will help. This planning will also go long way in making sure the backyard flock is a happy, healthy addition to the family.
Source: Nutrena Poultry Blog