Chickens make an excellent choice of pet for children. There are several breeds that are friendly and come in pretty colors, which appeal to children. But the part they’ll probably enjoy most, is collecting delicious fresh eggs.
Silkies are a popular breed of pet for children. They are docile and will allow you to handle them. Their unusual feathering and comb, which is called a mulberry or cushion, makes them fascinating to children. They are a small breed, known as a bantam, so will lay smaller eggs than the larger breeds.
Australorps are quiet and docile. They are sometimes available in white and blue, but the most common color is black. Australorps are not aggressive towards each other, and will adapt to being confined or free range. They lay brown eggs.
Sussex are a good chicken for the novice keeper. They are friendly and gentle – and have a curious nature, making them ideal pets for children. They are available in many colors, including speckled, buff, silver, lavender and red. The eggs are creamy to light brown.
Marans are friendly and not aggressive towards each other. The most interesting feature of the Maran, is the chocolate colored eggs that they lay. They are an attractive bird, and one of my favorites.
Belgian D’Uccle – Millie Fleur is the most popular variety of this breed. They are friendly, and appeal to children because they are colorful. The eggs are tiny, and creamy white in color.
The size of the housing will depend on the space you have, and whether you’re keeping bantams or larger birds. There are many styles of housing to choose from – but your chickens basic needs will be a place to shelter at night, and a run. They’ll also need a perch inside the house to roost. Each chicken will need about 2sq ft per bird.
Chickens are the perfect recyclers. They’ll eat most kitchen scraps, apart from raw potato peelings, moldy food and onions. Chickens love to forage, and will spend much of their day eating grass, weeds and insects. You’ll also need to feed them a balanced commercial food, to meet all their nutritional requirements. A mixture of layers pellets and corn is ideal. Clean fresh water should be available at all times.
A good way to start getting your children involved, is to try hand feeding your chickens. Show them how to hold out their hand close to the ground, with a few sunflower seeds or sultanas. It won’t be long before they’ll be eating out of their hand. This will give them the chance to bond with their new pets.
Caring For Your Chickens
Encourage your children to help with feeding and collecting the eggs. This gives them a sense of achievement, and will teach them to be responsible for the care of an animal. Show them how it’s important to feed the chickens a nutritious diet. Younger children can get involved with simple tasks, such as checking the water feeders or giving the chickens their daily greens.
Get the children to collect the eggs in a basket lined with hay. If the eggs are dirty, they can be carefully cleaned in warm soapy water and then dried. Store them in egg boxes in the refrigerator.
Once they have learned the basics, they can move on to cleaning the chicken houses. This is an essential part of owning any pet, which children should be encouraged to do. You can start by showing them how to clean the chicken poop yourself. Once this has been cleared, the children can replace the bedding with some straw and hay.
The Friendship Bond
Children often create a special bond with a pet, and chickens are no different. Some chickens will be more friendly than the others, or have a quirky personality, so will make a connection with your child. Whatever the case, a pet in your children’s life will teach them friendship, loyalty, compassion and how to respect people and animals. And of course they’ll also provide many hours of fun, and lots of fresh air and exercise.
Keeping Chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis