Keeping chooks is a great way to teach children about caring for animals, after all who can forget collecting warm eggs for breakfast?
Hatching eggs and raising chickens in classrooms is not a new trend – in fact raising poultry in schools has been going on for ages. Remember incubating eggs in a ‘Sunbeam’ frypan?
These days chooks are popping up in more and more schools, nursing homes, community gardens and urban backyards… because chooks not only turn table scraps into eggs, they have great personalities and make wonderful companions.
Chickens and their life cycle offer a very accessible way for children to connect with our natural world. Many children in urban and suburban settings are not exposed to nature on this level.
Raising chickens also helps children understand where our food comes from…..not the supermarket!
Chickens offer wonderful learning opportunities
Outside of the practical means of understanding where our food comes from, children also learn about:
✅ Responsibility and structured routine – feeding schedules, collecting eggs, keeping chickens safe and healthy
✅ Practice overcoming anxieties, especially animal-related anxieties
✅ Develop communication, play and interaction skills
✅ Empathy, compassion & gentleness when caring for another living thing
✅ Respect for other living creatures
✅ Reading signals – how does a chicken show us when it is content? nervous? scared? not feeling safe?
✅ Backyard chickens make a home a farm!
✅ Daily practice of permaculture principles
✅ The life cycle – observations from egg to chick to chicken
✅ Our relationship with our planet and all its inhabitants
✅ The connections in our natural world between plants, animals, and people
Good hygiene is very important!
Salmonella is a bacteria that can live on any surface where chickens live, and your chooks don’t have to be sick to carry the bacteria.
Because of this, it is important to teach children good hygiene practices around chickens, coop surfaces, eggs and poop…..
So no kissing of chooks!
⚡ Vigilant hand washing in warm soapy water after handling chickens, eggs, feed and water bowls, nesting material etc. Hand sanitiser can be used for a quick clean throughout handling because children touch their face frequently
⚡ Avoid contamination from footwear – have special chook-poop shoes that stay outdoors
⚡ Collect eggs daily to reduce the likelihood of poop on eggs
⚡ Correct cleaning of eggs – Never wash your fresh eggs with water. Cold water can actually pull bacteria from the shell into the egg itself, and warm, soapy water can remove the cuticle/bloom which protects the contents of the egg. Instead, use fine grit sandpaper or a brush dedicated to egg cleaning to wipe off any small streaks of dirt or chook poop
⚡ Discard cracked eggs – When collecting eggs check them for cracks. Feed fresh cracked eggs to your dog or cat, or cook them and feed them back to your chooks or compost them
What is the correct way to pick up and hold a chicken?
When picking up a chicken, use both hands to pin the wings to her side. This will stop her flapping. Lift her up and then place one hand underneath her with your middle finger in between her legs and your index, and fourth finger outside of the legs. Use your other hand to hold her close to you.
This holding style can be a bit difficult for young children to manage, so only chickens that are accustomed to handling should be held by children. They still need to be held gently but securely with their wings held close to the body.
Handling young chicks
Who doesn’t feel utter joy holding a wee fluffball chick in your hand!!!?
Children are fascinated by baby chicks and of course want to pick them up to hold. Here we need to offer careful, age appropriate, guidance.
It is absolutely fine to hold baby chicks from the minute they are dry and fluffy – but very gently and for not more than a minute or so. The best way to hold a chick is to encircle its body with your hand, your fingers and thumb loosely around its body allowing their head to peek out.
A child may find regulation of gentleness v’s grip difficult to achieve. They may manage to do this carefully using two hands but err on the side of caution by checking their ability first.
A chook flock provides fun and love, a sense of responsibility and teaches our children the importance of compassion and care. PLUS chickens are super cute, funny and affectionate and make great backyard pals for toddlers to teenagers, all in-between and over!
In return we must provide them with a safe and healthy home – so be sure to pay close and careful attention to how each child interacts so that it is a positive experience for both chook and child.
Oh and keep Super Mash up to your backyard chooks!
Super Mash is a monthly treatment to help keep chickens healthy. It’s a natural antiparasitic that contains ACV, nutrients and probiotics to boost and vitalise your chickens in a natural way.
Find out more and order online or find a Super Mash supplier near you at https://naturalchickenhealth.com.au/
Natural Chicken Health – Super Mash is a natural feed supplement to help keep your chooks healthy all year round.
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