Friday, March 25, 2011
Children and Chickens
If we hope to raise children who are willing and able to be good stewards of the flora and fauna in our world, we have to be willing and able to provide opportunities where they can do so at a young age. The process of hatching eggs teaches patience during the incubation period, a great time to offer lessons on how the embryos are developing in the egg and the requirements for life in the avian world. Seeing the chicks actually hatch is an amazing experience for children, who delight in seeing the eggs that have been static for so long suddenly bursting with life. The mammoth struggle of the chicks to get out of their shells is awe-inspiring, and as children root for them to persevere they often empathize with compassion and respect. Hatching chicks that they then have a hand in raising creates a bond and a naturally-arising sense of pride and competency as the birds grow.
Keeping a small flock and gathering eggs daily helps children understand the natural life cycle and increases their awareness and enjoyment of sustainable, family-centered flock raising. Children feel excited to "hunt and gather" their own breakfast egg from the coop, and they especially enjoy sharing "their" chickens and eggs with friends who visit. As they grow older, raising chickens provides a chance for them to practice their budding entrepreneurial skills--selling eggs, for example. Youth can show birds in local county fairs and get involved with 4-H. deepening their experience and understanding of animal stewardship and flock management.
Finally, keeping chickens with your children's help involves them intimately in the work and responsibility of keeping something alive. It introduces them to a sense of our human connection to other living things and the interdependent web of existence that we all share.