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Kids and chickens

The kids might find them more interesting than video games

We had chickens when I was a kid and many of them became pets. They were eventually meant for the freezer, so it was a good lesson in the food chain and the circle of life.

Melissa Caughey raises pet chickens in Massachusetts, and has written a book called “A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens”. She says the right breed for kids will be docile and calm, friendly, and curious. These would include Silkies, Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons, and Silver Laced Wyandottes.

Teaching children to respect and handle the birds properly starts from day one. There’s nothing like the experience of hatching your own, or picking up day-old chicks.

"The chicks will imprint on you as being part of their family and recognize them," says Caughey. "And it’s important for kids to learn to respect all living things, and this is a great way. Teach them from the beginning how to hold them, how to pet them. If you chase them or you try to grab them, they’re not going to warm up to that. So you start from the beginning. You start with some scratch and you put it on the ground and it’s about developing trust."  

Hen, or rooster? Caughey says very young children will be better off with hens. Roosters are fine as chicks, but when they grow up and the hormones kick in, some of them can become aggressive.

Like with all livestock, there are safety rules that kids should know when they’re around their chickens.

"Wash your hands with soap and water," says Caughey. "And then also if their clothing becomes soiled I usually remove it and change it and launder it right away. I also try to tell my kids, don’t kiss chickens. Keep them away from your eyes and face area, but you can certainly give them lots of hugs, give them some nice stroking on their back and under their chin."

There is so much that kids can learn from raising chickens – the value of caring for a pet, chores, responsibility, and a relationship with an animal.

Learn more:

Steps for starting a chicken flock

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