Kids and Backyard Chickens

chickensWe have had chickens in the past, along with goats, turkeys and ducks, but only when we lived in rural areas. We left our quasi-homesteading life three years ago so we could stop commuting and we now live in town and within a mile of our son’s school and our jobs. We love walking and biking everywhere and really like our neighbors but the thing we missed the most was chickens. So a few months ago I impulse purchased five baby chicks from a feed store when out and about with our son.  Three were Rhode Island Reds and the other two were unknown breeds but we were told they were cold-hardy and good layers.

It was still winter when we got them so until this month they lived in our basement in a big cardboard box with a heat lamp, going outside only on occasional warm days. Surprisingly, they didn’t really smell and as long as I changed out their box regularly, they seemed  perfectly content. In their first few days of life we had some scary times where I overheated them with a heat lamp too close based on bad internet advice. One of the chicks had a prolapsed oviduct and wasn’t growing normally so we had to keep her separate, clean the protruding tissue and monitor her. Other than that it was pretty easy. Our son loved holding them and watching them grow bigger every day. He checked on them first thing in the morning and right after school and insisted on saying goodnight every night before bed.
After they were heartier and ready to move into the backyard the fun really started.  We built our own coop (I used power tools!), fenced in our yard with additional chicken wire, and bought a mason jar chicken waterer. We don’t have pets so the chickens introduced our son to the joys of connecting with and caring for animals without the expense and emotional and financial investment of a real pet. They are still livestock after all. They have taught him about responsibility and he takes great pleasure and pride in changing out their water and giving them feed. They eat our leftovers too so they cut down on waste. We did lose one (the prolapsed oviduct one) to the neighbor’s dachshund (we believe), but the other four are healthy and happy.
I do believe it is important for kids to connect with the food they eat. We plant a garden every year and my husband hunts during hunting season so our son does understand that to some degree, but now that we are about to eat eggs from a pet of sorts, we have had some really engaging and deep discussions about where animals fit in to our decisions about what to eat. Ultimately he’ll make his own decisions about what is moral and ecologically sound. At the very least, though, I want him to grow up to be a man who treats the earth and all of its creatures with respect. Whether that means he will be a flexitarian like us or be a vegetarian or vegan I do not know, but I hope the experience of raising chickens for eggs makes him more thoughtful and wise about those decisions.
Do you have backyard chickens at your house?

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  1. jodi Armstrong says

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