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Teach Kids with Chickens

Whether they’re in the classroom, on a farm or in your own backyard, chickens are ready to teach your kids about a lot more than the three Rs.

By Christine Heinrichs

Chicken Projects at Home

Chicken coop
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Make chickens the centerpoint of home-based lessons, such as how to build a chicken coop.
Children can learn a lot from chickens after the school day ends, too, even (or especially) if poultry isn’t part of their school’s curriculum. With this in mind, some parents have turned chickens into a family project.

“There’s endless potential for educational projects involving chickens,” says Douglas Fischer, who acquired his first chicks for his children, Georgianna, 9, and Phineas, 6. “Initially, we got them for egg-laying potential. We didn’t see an educational potential for them, but now it’s incredibly obvious.”

Fischer anticipates both children will incorporate their experiences into school science reports on subjects ranging from ways to maximize egg-laying to analyzing the waste cycle and how composting chicken manure can reduce waste and be part of sustainable agriculture. He speculates about projects to investigate whether pecking order is related to intelligence or to compare running times by building a maze.

“They are such a resource,” he adds.

Entrepreneurially minded kids may benefit from involvement with the APA-ABA Youth Poultry Club. Club members are required to learn about breeds, history, husbandry, candling and hatching, and health and medications. By tracking income and expenses to arrive at a financial summary of their projects, they polish their arithmetic skills and get a taste of business. (The profit motive is a powerful incentive for some students.) They also keep notebooks and health-maintenance records for their flocks.

Chicken ownership opens opportunities to learn other skill sets, including chicken-coop design and construction and wood-shaving making; these are projects that can be tackled at home or in a wood-shop class at school.

Students learn much more than facts from chickens in the curriculum. Shirley points out, “Eggs are sort of like people: The outside is different colors, but the inside is the same.”

Students who are afraid of chickens (or birds in general) have an opportunity to have a positive experience with a chicken. Petting a chicken’s soft feathers can help them overcome fear. Learning to hold a chicken firmly, so that it feels secure, can build confidence.

Mimi Kahn, who operates Mimi’s Garden Design, a landscaping design business in Pacific Palisades, Calif., found an unexpected benefit of raising chickens for her 11-year-old son, James. He has become so passionate about them, he’s inspired to write about them. His writing skills have improved as he expresses his love and admiration for his birds. At a parent-teacher conference, James’ teacher told Kahn, “Getting chickens was the best thing [you] could have done to get him to write with passion.”

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Reader Comments
We really enjoy our chickens...we might not even would have the if not for chickens in the classroom...In Kindergarden, our son's class hatch a bunch of the little things and of course the teacher sent them home with everyone who wanted one...well, somehow we ended up with three of them (i think because we live in a sub·ur·ban neighborhood) Now we have on average around 30 at a time...we enter them at our county fair each year and my boys really enjoy getting ribbons - and thank goodness our neighbor likes the eggs we share with them...a peace offering for them not minding us having our beloved chicks!
Cindi, Pikeville, NC
Posted: 7/12/2011 7:03:34 AM
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