In todays world it is hard to get a child's attention out of the video game or off the TV and into the farm. Our society has moved from the hands on with a little elbow grease mentality to the quick and easy mentality. That is something that we as parents must work to change. If the skills and knowledge that were passed to us are not passed down, they will be forgotten. In the very near future many will not be able to handle the simple tasks of self reliance. We must teach our children about the many benefits of raising and caring for animals and plants that will give them so much in return. Healthier food and a rewarding sense of accomplishment top the list of the many benefits they will receive. One of the best ways to start this process of change is those amazing and timeless chickens!
Start off by explaining to them the importance of being healthy. Explain to them that the quality of farm raised foods far surpass those qualities found in your average store bought product. You should also explain to them the treatment of most of those animals that produce those items for the large chain stores. Tell them about practices such as 24/7 steroid filled feed and artificial light in tiny cages or the vast array of medications that are given to those animals that is then passed to us. Once you paint the picture of the reality of mass production in the food world, they will begin to see your backyard farm as a major score!
Since our focus is on the backyard chicken, lets start with explaining the many benefits of farm raised over store bought. Farm raised eggs have a higher protein and mineral content than store bought. They also contain higher levels of natural D vitamins over store bought eggs. Factory raised chickens are given D supplements to make up for the fact they never see the light of day. Your backyard chickens get their D vitamins from the big yellow circle in the sky that warms your face each day. The color and texture of your eggs vs their eggs is night and day. Farm raised eggs tend to be of a more vibrant color. They tend to hold together and cook up much better than store bought. The shells of your backyard babies tend to be much stronger while the store bought crack and break very easy. And whether you are raising your chickens for eggs, for meat or both you have to consider the taste factor. No store bought eggs or meat will ever taste as good as those produced by and from your backyard darlings.
To get your children involved, give them simple tasks. Let them gather the eggs or toss some feed. They will enjoy watching those feathered phenoms do the chicken dance as they scurry around for bit of corn. One of my favorite ways to get them involved is to let them gather up all the eggs. Then take those eggs inside, clean them up and show your child just what can be done with those eggs they just helped gather. And nothing teaches a better lesson than a batch of fresh cookies or brownies! Make it a point to use those eggs to make a special treat weekly for all their hard work in the barnyard.
As they and their love of the barnyard grows, encourage them to take part in raising a chick of their own. Either for pure pleasure or even 4-H. Let them see the process from laid egg, to incubator, to hatch. Then give them the responsibility of caring for that new little life. They will develop a greater appreciation for our backyard friends that they will then pass down to their children. Its a beautiful circle of life and lessons that we must start for them. So what are you waiting for? Lets share and teach!