Teaching Kids How to Raise their Own Chickens For Eggs

It’s back to school for many, and we’re ready with pens, calculators, papers and books for our reading, writing, and arithmetic. But teaching about agriculture and food systems is sadly not on many schools’ curricula. Whether your kids learn at home or at school, incorporating discussions around growing food, sourcing food, and eating healthy is a great way to encourage kids to own their choices about eating healthy foods, and get excited about supporting healthy food systems. Growing your food can be hugely impactful in this conversation, and nothing is easier than starting with backyard chickens.

Here are a few ideas and printouts for incorporating this conversation this year:

1. Discuss the lifecycle of chickens

Lifespan: Chickens live for 5-8 years on average in a backyard setting, but only 2-3 years in an industrial setting. Chickens can live as long as 13 years!

Egg Laying: Mama hens lay an egg approximately once every day.

Hatching Eggs: Eggs take 21 days to hatch in an incubator or a mama hen.

Baby Chicks: Baby chicks need their mama or a heat lamp for 6 weeks to keep them warm until they get all their feathers.

Adult Chickens: Chickens become adults that can lay their own eggs when they reach 6 months old.

Complete the FREE Chickens Lifecycle printout below with your child while discussing these fun facts!

Download the PDF here:

Drawbacks to hatching your own chicken eggs

While it can be fun to hatch baby chicks with kids using an incubator and fertile eggs to teach this lesson, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider:

  1. Half of all chickens that hatch will be male, meaning that half of the chickens will be crowing roosters by the time they reach 3-4 months old. If you can’t keep roosters in your neighborhood, it may be tough to say goodbye to the roosters after they’ve been hand raised.
  2. Chicks should be vaccinated for Marek’s disease within 24 hours of hatching. Finding and purchasing the vaccine and syringe can be difficult, and administering a subcutaneous vaccine can be even harder. The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, but it’s most effective when administered by a professional.

2. Discuss How to Care for Chickens

Eggs as Protein: Keeping chickens in a backyard for eggs is a healthy way of making your food. Eggs are an excellent (eggcellent) source of protein.

How Many Eggs Do Chickens Lay? Good or excellent egg-laying hens can lay an egg about once a day, so you can harvest approximately one dozen eggs every week by keeping two chickens.

What do you need? You need some supplies to get started:

  • A chicken coop with a roost for sleeping and a nesting box for laying eggs that can be closed at night to keep the chickens safe from predators like raccoons and possums.
  • A covered and enclosed outdoor space for chickens to play during the day that’s safe from predators like coyotes, hawks, and neighborhood dogs or cats.
  • A chicken feeder
  • A chicken waterer
  • Chicken Feed
  • Chicken bedding for inside the coop (pine shavings are best)

Cleaning the Coop: you need fresh bedding and a shovel to clean out your coop. Cleaning the coop should be done once every 2-4 weeks. It’s a good idea to sanitize your coop when it’s cleaned out using diluted bleach or other sanitizing sprays. Then you put 2-3 inches of bedding back in the coop and nesting boxes. You can compost the dirty bedding, and turn it back into dirt for your garden!

Treats & Supplements: Give your chickens sunflower seeds, mealworms, black soldier flies and other healthy treats to train them and build your relationship with them. Put Apple Cider Vinegar in their water to keep their immune systems strong and their waterer clean.

Hold & Play with them Gently: Chickens wings, necks and legs are very delicate. Hold them close to your body and be calm and quiet to make friends with them. Starting with Coop-Ready 6-11 week old chickens will make it easier to bond with chickens since they’re younger and more impressionable.

Watch their Behavior and Monitor Health: Sick chickens act differently. They sleep a lot, they stop cleaning their feathers, they get loose stools, and more. Other symptoms something might be wrong are sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny noses, bubbly eyes, weight loss, limping, and more. Watch your chickens regularly so you know when something changes!


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