As I was growing up, my grandma always kept her backyard full of chickens. When she lived in town, she kept 5 or 6 chickens and a handful of ducks waddling around her property. She would wake up each morning to refill the plastic kiddie pool out back for her ducks to splash around in.
My grandmother eventually moved to an acreage in Northwestern Oklahoma. She expanded her hobby farm to include goats, peacocks, turkeys, geese and emus. YES… Emus. Going to her house was thrilling. We would gather the eggs, water and feed the animals, and, if we were lucky, we could play with the new babies on the farm.
After I started my own family, and my grandma kept pestering me to get chickens for the kids. “It will be good for them,” she would say. “It will teach them responsibility, and how to care for an animal,” she added. But, no matter how many times she would send baby chicks or ducklings home with me, I would tote them back to her acreage to live out the rest of their days.
My grandma is 92 years old now, and I finally bit the bullet and joined the “Crazy Chicken Lady” club. (This club is second only to the “Crazy Cat Lady” club.) I am a city slicker through and through, yet, I have managed to keep 6 chickens alive and healthy for the past year. If I can, so can you! If you are on the fence about chicken keeping, I am here to convince you that they have been the best addition to our family. Let me tell you what we have learned from our backyard flock.
Chickens Taught My Kids Responsibility
She was right!!!! My grandma was totally spot on, these ladies have given my three children opportunities to learn alllll the life lessons. They have learned how to care for others that are dependent on you. They have become more gentle and cautious, because handling baby chicks takes a calm demeanor. Each night, my four year old counts the eggs as he puts them in our refrigerator, impressed at the chickens’ hard work for the the day.
So many practical matters can be discovered in having backyard chickens. Teaching our kids about the source of our food, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy options is now simple. The kids know that chickens can only eat “real food” scraps and not processed food, causing them to distinguish the difference daily.
Chickens Helped My Family S L O W D O W N
The rhythm of chicken-keeping forces our family to pause twice a day. Each morning we must go outside and let the chickens out to graze. We feed them and water them before leaving the house each day. Just being outside for a few moments, gives us the opportunity to breathe in some fresh air, and pause from the hustle of our morning routine.
At night, the kids take turns shutting the chicken coop and collecting the eggs. We celebrate the eggs each night. We have talked with the kids about the dangers of not shutting the chicken coop. Chickens are defenseless animals, who can’t see at night, so leaving their coop open will invite predators in to harm them. This has made them extra cautious in making sure the coop is closed each evening.
Culture moves so fast these days. Our society embraces the go-go-go mentality and keeping chickens forces our family to find a small nugget of stillness admit the chaos going on around us.
Chickens Are Just Plain Fun:
Chicken owners can pull up a seat in their backyard and enjoy some “chicken TV” to cap off their day. Each hen has her own specific personality and watching them interact is comical. Our most assertive hen is known for steeling scraps, nibbling toes, or even high-jumping to get the first taste of scratch from the bucket. We also have a gentle hen, who will hop into your lap if you are sitting still long enough. She will even close her eyes if you pet her just right. Have you ever heard of a lap chicken? I hadn’t either.
The kids have named each hen, and they watch carefully how each gets along with the flock. My daughter scolds the assertive chicken for stealing food, and my oldest son coddles the timid chicken, giving her extra attention when he can.
I realize not everyone can own backyard chickens. Maybe someday we can live in a world that embraces the flock, and appreciates what they add to the community. But, for those of you who live in a location that allows backyard chickens, I encourage you to take the plunge. They are well worth the work and add so much to your family.
Disclaimer: Always wash your hands after handling poultry. Our children have a special hand washing ritual they do after coming in from handling or feeding the chickens. We also have special outside shoes that do not come into the house, to stop the chicken droppings from being tracked in.