The Best Chicken Breeds for Kids
Looking at these photos of Tad with the chickens not only reminds me of how much time has passed since we first began keeping hens but also how much my son has grown and changed! His opinions of chickens have changed over time as well. It seemed that our flock was the best thing to ever happen to him those handful of springs ago when we brought home our first chicks. Now that he’s a bit older, the chicks are still just as fun and exciting to care for and handle. The older birds, however, he is more apprehensive towards. I think a lot of that has to do with the roosters who used to chase him around the farm last summer. They have since been removed from our homestead, though he is still hesitant towards the hens. While he’s not necessarily afraid of chickens, I think the older he becomes the more he is realizing that they are indeed real animals and are uncontrollable, much like all nature. My hope is that he will continue to find the excitement and usefulness in keeping these birds as he grows!
Why keep chickens with children? Well, I have an entire blog post on the subject, but we will boil it all down to this: it teaches them things. Things like empathy, responsibility, courage, and hard work. It teaches them, too, more of the science side of life as well. One of my favorite quotes I’ve read about children and chickens is by Jane Goodall who said that as a child she spent several weeks sitting in a dark corner of a chicken coop waiting and watching to discover how the egg came out of the hen. It’s fascinating, even to me, an adult who thought she knew how these things worked but realized I didn’t! Farming isn’t as simple as many people believe it to be, and most people that I speak to or host classes for when it comes to teaching about chickens are often surprised by the simple fact that hens lay eggs without roosters or that they sleep on a roosting post and not in the nesting box. These are things that I believe our children should know, especially of an animal that produces a food product we eat almost every single day.
Is it safe to keep chickens with children?
Yes, of course! Chickens are docile and easy going. They make a great pet for families because they don’t require a lot of attention other than care for their basic needs such as food and water, a clean living environment, protection from predators and inclement weather, and a good check for any illness or injuries. Other than that, they don’t need much of your time. They don’t really enjoy being cuddled, they don’t want to play fetch, and they don’t want to come snuggle on your couch or poop on your kitchen floor. Chickens have their own space that they can make a mess in. It’s one of the reasons they are my favorite pet for kids! We recently bought a dog (again) and I have come to realize that chickens are better suited for me. I don’t have to train them or let them outside to go to the bathroom. I feed them twice a day, refill their water, clean their coop every 1-2 weeks, and collect their eggs. Tad helps (even begrudgingly though usually with a smile) and then we can guilt-free continue on with our day. They are nice for that reason, I will say!
When it comes to keeping clean, and important thing to remember for adults and children is to wash your hands after handling chickens or working in the coop. Always! Even if you didn’t touch a hen, we make sure to wash our hands thoroughly so that we are not accidentally passing chicken feces from our hands to our mouths. If you want, you can wear gloves, too. Children are curious and touch everything with their hands and those hands often wind up in their mouths. Be patient and watch your children when it comes to touching the chicks or hens. Another good idea is to have specific “chicken coop boots” or shoes that they wear when inside of the coop. These stay outside so that no poo is tracked through the house.
Breeds that We love
There are so many different breeds of chickens out there! Which is the best for children or a family? It really boils down to what you want them for. Cuddles and temperament? Eggs? Feather coloring? For me, I wanted chickens that were not necessarily bothered by being handled and picked up by a toddler, and I also wanted a decent amount of eggs. Feather coloring was pretty high on my list as well for someone that documents our life on the internet, but it was not that big of a deal!
PLYMOUTH BARRED ROCK | The Plymouth Barred Rock is my absolute favorite breed that I have owned thus far! Our dear girl, Muriel, was a barred rock and made us laugh daily. Known for their docile personas and hardiness, these birds make a great choice to have around young children. They can withstand cold temperatures and are great layers. You'll get around 4 to 5 light pink-brown eggs a week! I have always noticed that barred rocks are extremely loyal and will often come when called in comparison to more independent chickens. These birds are heavy weight and can be up to 7 to 8 pounds.
BUFF ORPINGTON | One of the most well known chickens, the Buff Oprington is most often referred to as the "golden retriever" of chickens for its happy-go-lucky behavior, coloring, and dependability for laying. These chickens are wonderful to watch, can be a bit moody and aloof, but lay really well for such a large and calm breed. This breed is a perfect pick for the first time chicken owner and their little ones as they enjoy being held (sometimes!) and are very curious. Buffs love treats and will most likely end up following you around the yard hoping you drop a few! Their eggs are large and brown, and they lay about 3 to 4 a week. They are a heavy breed that can weigh up to 7 to 8 pounds.
BLACK AUSTRALORP | Gentle and sweet, Black Australorps are a breed developed in Australia that are a descendant of the Orpington breed. They are friendly and inquisitive, making excellent mothers and tend to become the head hens in their flock. In my first flock, Dorothy my Australorp, was our head hen! She was always the last inside of the coop and made sure everyone was doing their job among the flock. They enjoy being inside of the coop and are perfect for a home with a small yard. Great layers, Australorps will lay about five brown eggs a week. This breed is heavy weight and can weigh up to 7 to 8 pounds.
COCHIN | Cochins are a native breed to China and known for their fluffy feathered toes. These birds are so funny to watch but make the absolute best choice for a family with little kids and living in an urban area. While sweet and adaptable, they are not great layers. They make a great breed purely for having as a pet! Peaceful, friendly, easily handled, happy, and excellent mothers they will lay around two brown eggs a week and are a very heavy breed tending to weigh over 8 pounds.
BRAHMA | Brahmas are gentle and wonderful for young kids looking to raise a flock of their own. These birds can grow to a rather large size making them giants amongst other hens! They have feathered legs and feet and are wonderful mothers to their chicks. They make a great pet based upon their gentle nature, quietness, and ability to live in confined spaces. They will lay about 3 to 4 medium sized brown eggs a week. They are a very heavy breed and can weigh well over 8 pounds!
Of course, don’t think that the breeds I’ve listed above are the only types that children will enjoy! We have plenty of amazing chickens that are just as sweet, calm, and beautiful that also lay lots of eggs. Some of the breeds listed above like Cochins and Brahmas are more rare for most hatcheries or feed stores, and you may have to pay a little more for that type of bird. Others are really common! A few other breeds that we love having around Tad are Sapphire Gems, Wyandottes, and Ameraucanas. It’s a good idea to start with some common breeds and work into more rare types.
There is much to learn about keeping chickens on the farm! This blog post covers the most basic information, but there is even more to learn about brooding your own chicks at home. In my online course, Finding Your Flock, I cover the entire lifespan of a chicken including the first seven weeks of life in detail. I teach you exactly what to expect, what you will need, and answer those burning questions!
For the rest of the month of March I will be sharing all of my chick related tips and tricks with you here on the blog! It is going to be Chick Month here at Under A Tin Roof while I raise my newest babies and prepare them for life here on our farm. I am really excited to share all of the best chick information with you!!
My course Finding Your Flock is $25.00 - I am offering 25% off now through March 30th to all of our blog readers. Just use the code CHICKDAYS15 to receive your discount!
Be sure to stick around for the rest of the month to see the other chick posts I will be sharing!