Backyard Poultry

Backyard Chickens Are a Kids’ Best Friend

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Starting a Flock : Considering Chickens

Flock Management : Egg Benefits

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

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. Kids love chickens because they are friendly and filled with personality. Parents value the lessons they teach about responsibility and where food comes from.
 Kids and chickens can be best friends
Here are four tips if you are considering a family flock:
 
1. Choose a kid-friendly chicken 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. 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:  
“Tensley’s chicks quickly became some of her best friends,” says Kathy. “We’ve collected at least 200 eggs. She’s as excited about them laying eggs today as when they first started.”  
 
3. Practice safe and healthy chicken handling
Raising chickens can also teach about the importance of biosecurity. Kids learn valuable lessons to keep their birds and themselves safe and healthy.
 
Here are three important steps:
  •  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. 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? Here are six steps for starting a flock.