My Sydney based family is in our third year of visiting farmstays. The experience has been even more rewarding than we had initially anticipated. I thought the chooks would stay in their coop, and we would occasionally get eggs and that would be about it. But they actually were the most popular of all the animals at the farmstay, even of the cows, donkeys alpacas and horses! Chickens are very active and fun to watch. Seeing everything my children have learned through the experience, I even wish I could keep chickens. Not only educational the kids truly enjoyed the time spent with our farm’s hens. Chickens and children go so well together, learn more here.
Chickens Teach Children ‘Paddock to the Plate‘
Chickens have taken a more active role in helping my kids understand where my family’s food was coming from. This has transferred into a great lesson for my children. Although they are just three and five years old, they understand that there is more to food than a supermarket, and that is so so important. My five year old quickly made the connection between the animals outside and the food on our plates. We have had to have the conversations, and she ‘gets’ that an animal gave its life for him to have his meal. She knows first-hand what a chicken’s life looks like, these conversations are teaching her gratitude. We talked about the steps it takes in bringing food from farm to plate, and we often thanked our farmstays hens when out collecting our eggs. My three year old son doesn’t fully understand, but he gets a great kick out of collecting eggs and taking them to me into the farmstay kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Chickens Teach kids Respect and how to be Gentle
As I said before we have been going each year for three years, to one in Bundanoon. When she and her younger brother were old enough to pick them up, I made it a priority to teach them how to catch and handle the chickens with respect and care. Learning respect is a lesson that will carry over into all of life’s interactions with different animals as well as their interactions with other people. Thankfully, our children have been very receptive to these things, but “gentle” to a young child is not applied when it comes to the excitement felt when collecting eggs. Imagine my surprise when I looked down into the bucket at broken eggs!. My son was more of the “collect and toss them in the bucket quick” type, while my daughter would crack them in her hands holding just a little too tight. Thankfully, the broken ones didn’t go to waste, scrambled eggs is the favourite style for my daughter when it comes to cooked eggs (she still calls them ‘smashed eggs’).
Another farmstay bonus, my son from not eating eggs at all returned from the farm asking for ‘ecks’. he couldn’t refuse to try the ones he so proudly gave me from the coop.
Chickens with Children make Terrific Entertainment
Everyone knows children do some unexpected things and can create entertaining situations simply out of their curiosity. Farmstays are a great way to see your kids in a new more active light.
Chickens are the exact same way. They like to explore the yard, and get into different things. Combining children and backyard chickens is pure entertainment. Not just for the children, but for those who get to watch (us!!!) as well.
The hours that I have spent watching my son and daughter follow the chickens around are absolutely priceless. Digging around in the mud for bugs to feed the chickens, as well as trying to catch hens, are two of my children’s favorite activities. The chickens also love the kids, and rwait closeby to receive any treats the kids dig up. Sometimes, the kids will try to pick up a hen and she will run off, too quickly for them to catch. But, if the kids give up and go do something else, you will quickly see that the chickens themselves are soon following close behind, part of the game itself.
Chickens Teach Responsibility
Caring for any animal is a great way to teach a child responsibility. It is always exciting to a young child to walk outside with a cup full of feed and see their hens come running towards them, ready for their meal. All kids delight in checking the chicken coop to find an egg waiting for them. This task is so rewarding. My children are not yet at the age where we ask them to change out the hay in the coop, however many farmers will be delighted if you offer to help so that farm chore isn’t far away. While I don’t ask my kids to be the ones who perform these tasks daily, they see that they need to be done continuously in order to properly care for the hens. My son took his responsibility so seriously, with a look that showed his concentration to the task set
“The Circle of Life”
In our family we talk about animals and life cycles. The hardest part of keeping any type of pet is and the recognizing the reality that they will die. Teaching children about death, in my opinion, is an important reasons to get a child a pet. The important thing is not to focus on what happens when they die, but instead to make sure they understand that it is natural and to cherish everything that happens before that. Chickens, like any living creature, are born, are a chick, start to lay and then become old and pass….It has helped our kids to learn about the food chain, as well as recognize how fragile all life is.
Jane Ascombe – Bondi