Let Them Grow: Pulling the Chicken Chore Card
Keeping Chickens with Toddlers
Having chickens is rewarding in many ways; they connect us directly to the food chain, give us a sense of belonging to the land and allow the children to take a hands on approach to caring for animals. Having chickens in or backyard brings the farm to us. It gives us the familiar rewarding feeling that hard work can bring. This sense of accomplishment is tri-fold to a toddler!
We have just recently begun the art of animal husbandry at our family day care, and my toddlers love chickens! When they pull the chicken chore card, they are so excited, becoming focused and eager. The chicken chore is combined with the compost chore, since the compost area is nearby. We usually have four chicken and compost helpers per day. With the proper preparation is in place, I have found caring for chickens to be extremely easy and rewarding for toddlers.
The Chicken Chore
- Put on your chicken poop boots
- Take a container full of chicken feed
- Bring out the compost
- Bring in the eggs
- Wash Hands
When we arrive at the chicken area, the children have learned the importance of not letting them escape. They carefully open the gate, shaking the food container and calling the chickens together. All the children enter the chicken area calmly and begin feeding them from the container of feed. We encourage the children to move slowly around the chickens, aware that fast movements can startle them. The sense of pride the children experience from this is indescribable. They gloat with enjoyment and stay focused and task oriented. They are in awe of the movements and features of the chickens, a so curious about the eggs they give us. We identify the chicken parts, closely examining their combs, gizzards, feet and little beaks.
The next step after feeding the chickens is to refill the water dish. The children are solely responsible for this part of the chore. Using a pre-filled watering can, they pour the chickens a nice cold drink. Watching the chickens drink water is a fun spectacle all on its own. They dip their head in and lift it up to swallow. Dip. Lift. Repeat. The children love this and chickens love the fresh water. We often spend time here petting the chickens and enjoying their company.
Following the water, we dump the compost. This is another activity both the toddler and the chickens seem to really appreciate. Seeing the food return to the land is often eye opening for the children. Having a child size pitchfork comes in handy; though most toddlers want to try the adult sized one. We turn the compost and watch the chickens scramble for a crumb of toast leftover from breakfast. This is a great opportunity to discuss compost and how it breaks down into the rich earth that allows us to grow our gardens. We often look for worms, another activity chickens and toddlers both equally enjoy!
Lastly, our favorite part of the chicken chore is collecting the eggs. The children wait for this moment with great enthusiasm. As we open the coop and peer into the nesting box, we count the eggs. 1,2,3,4,5 “And who didn’t lay an egg for us today,” we ask. Each child collects an egg and thanks a chicken.
I thank the children for doing such a good job at their chore, we close the coop and gate and tell those chicks we will see them later. As we return to the house, we talk about the importance of cleaning our hands and the eggs. We discuss the full circle of life we just experience and how we treat the animals gently and with kind hands. We learn again each day the importance of human kindness and the rewards bestowed upon us by having these little chickens.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programing for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.