- Jun 28, 2011
4 Tips for raising chickens and children in one happy backyard.Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Macaroni and cheese. Some things are just better together. The same holds true for kids and their pets.
Pets provide unforgettable memories – from greetings at the front door to backyard adventures. Today, these family moments are made with an unconventional pet: backyard chickens.
“Chickens are popular urban and rural pets, providing benefits for the entire family,” says Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Kids love chickens because they are friendly and filled with personality. Parents value the lessons they teach about responsibility and where food comes from.”
Here are four tips if you are considering a family flock:
1. Choose a kid-friendly breed
Just like kids, each chicken has a unique personality. There are a few chicken breeds that are especially patient with children.
Silkies, often called the lap dog of chickens, are a top choice for families looking for affectionate birds. They have a sweet and caring nature, with soft, fuzzy feathers. Orpingtons and Plymouth Rocks are quiet, gentle birds and can lay up to 300 brown eggs per year. Other kid-friendly chicken breeds include: Cochins, Brahmas, Australorps, Polish and the colored egg-laying Easter Eggers.
“If you have kids, these are all good starter breeds,” says Biggs. “They typically have mild temperaments and enjoy human company. No matter the breed, start with four to six chicks and teach children how to handle and care for them. As you grow in your chicken journey, consider adding other breeds to your flock.”
2. Celebrate each milestone
Once you choose a breed, you’re in for many fun milestones as chickens grow quickly. Be sure to celebrate each moment as shown in this list from Purina Poultry Facebook fan Kathy Evans and her granddaughter Tensley:
- Pick out chicks together
- Learn how to hold chicks gently
- Name your new chicks
- Watch them grow through the teenage stage
- Build the perfect coop
- Run out in the morning to check for the first egg
- Celebrate the first egg at week 18
3. Practice safe and healthy handling
Raising chickens can also teach about the importance of biosecurity. Kids learn valuable lessons to keep their birds and themselves safe and healthy.
Biggs recommends these three tips:
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after collecting eggs or working with birds.
- Wear clean clothes and wash shoes with disinfectant before spending time with birds. Consider providing your kids with “chicken shoes” they only wear out to the coop.
- Clean and disinfect equipment, including any tools that come in contact with your birds or their droppings.
“Daily chicken chores can be fun and rewarding,” says Biggs. “A hen produces about one egg each day, so it’s quick to see the results. Kids can help care for the birds and see their work pay off with farm fresh eggs.”
Dana Adkins, a mom in North Carolina, says raising a mixed poultry flock has brought her family together through shared responsibility.
“We started raising chickens, ducks and geese because I wanted my kids to learn where their food comes from,” says Dana. “The kids help with everything, from cleaning the coop to collecting eggs. We enjoy each step of the way together, from hatching chicks to having fresh eggs to eat.”
Ready to add backyard chickens to your family? Visit your local Purina retailer this fall for Purina® Flock-Tober® festivities, visit www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.