Backyard chickens are a kids’ best friend
SHOREVIEW, MN - 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.”
Tips for 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 such as picking out chicks together, learning how to hold chicks gently, naming the chicks, watching them grow, celebrating the first egg.
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.
4. Make daily caretaking fun - “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.”