Kids and Chickens
We have 7 grandchildren ages 2 ½ to 12, and a little more than 2 dozen chickens ages 5 months to 18 months. Together they are like a peanut butter sandwich with fresh strawberry jam. One would be ok without the other but together it is so much more fun!
My original plan was to have chickens to have a nice hobby with the grandkids where they would learn a little about chickens, responsibility and what I believe the American life should really be like. It has turned into so much more. My little ones love to come and collect eggs, they love to name the chickens, they like to help clean out the coop, paint the coop a color Grammy chose and not the hot pink the hens would like best, they want to know which hen laid the egg they are eating, and even which chicken they might be eating! Was this the mean rooster they couldn’t play with? I did not count on how much fun to would be for me to have chickens. We had chickens about 25 years ago. They were nice, good layers, good meat, but they were in an indoor “coop” in the barn. We never really got to know them. Today’s chickens are in a coop outdoors with pens, but they get out roaming the yard, eating the bugs, and playing during the day. And they put themselves to bed at night- everyone in his own pen. That just amazes me!
My husband has a nursery. Kids that come with their parents always want to see the chickens, most want to pet one, and some want to hold them. My mother has never warmed up to them, but so far she is about the only one. My son-in-law once said he would never get tired of watching those chickens! He is a city guy. I have 2 Sussex hens; I told my granddaughter if she was to name them they needed proper English names. They are now Kate and Pippa. I have 2 Phoenix beauties. I thought they should have Japanese names, but when I got home I found they are Larry, Moe and Curly. Even my husband, who I guess qualifies as a big kid, has named a couple. One is Amber, after my daughter (how is that for an honor?) and her little friend is an Americauna, who is really beautiful, with a golden head, long feathering and a body whose feathers resemble a quail. His name is Chester- also not a name I would have chosen. My husband sits on the front porch and does a few crows just to taunt Little Roo (a bantam he also named) until he stretches his little neck out as far as it can and crows back. And so they go back and forth until one or the other tires.
My grandkids marvel at the eggs being warm, they all just hope they will get to feel a still soft egg. The first thing after their greeting hugs, they all ask something about the chickens. Did Thora and Phyllis lay eggs today? Can I catch a chicken to hold? We read that chickens might be good weeders, and bug killers in the garden; so far our chickens are snackers in the garden. I suppose if they all lived on farms, kids wouldn’t pay much attention to my chickens because they would be used to them and they might be just another chore to do. But when they are seen as something fun to visit they want to be involved however they can.
I buy chicken magazines, not the scandal rags at the grocery store checkout lines. The kids sit and read them with me every time they come. We pick out the prettiest ones; we see which kind lays the most eggs, and what color they will be. We learn which varieties are nicer with kids and which are too mean to play with. We read about how to feed them, and what kinds of illnesses they can get if you don’t take good care of them. My grandkids have learned a lot about chickens, and they didn’t even know it was educational. It was all fun with Grandpa and Grammy. Even our E-mails usually have something like “How are the chickens today?”
To say that every chicken is a good breed to have around your kids would not be the truth. And to say that every kid would enjoy being around a chicken would not be right either. But what we have found is that it is a wonderful hobby to have around your kids. They will learn a lot, they will do all the things our original goals were, but most of all they will have fun. And when you go out the door and the chickens run up to you to see what you have brought them, you know that the chickens are having fun too.