A few years ago my son Charles was almost 2 years old. We were visiting a friend and the kids were playing outside. I was chatting inside when I heard a scream coming from the back yard. Charles and my friends’ rooster were facing off. Charles was running as fast as he could as the rooster jumped on top of him.
My friend’s husband, who was also outside, quickly rescued him. Charles was frightened but other than a single scratch, unharmed. Chickens are as varied as dogs. Some are very mellow and friendly, while others tend to be aggressive and territorial.
If you have children and want to raise chickens there are several questions for you to consider. This article will go over the various things to consider when raising chickens, the best chicken breeds for children, and how to raise friendlier chickens.
Aspects Of Chicken Raising To Consider When You Have Kids
There are several things to consider when you have kids. You may want chickens that will be kept in a chicken run that won’t be pets. Or you may want chickens that will follow your kids around. Maybe you want chickens so calm, they will ride on your kid’s handlebars.
You will also want to consider what other reasons you want chickens. If your primary purpose in having chickens is as a pet or to teach responsibility to your kids, then it doesn’t matter if the breed you purchase is a super egg-layer breed or not.
But, if you want to raise your chickens primarily for meat or for eggs, then you will want to balance friendlier chickens against production-type chickens.
- Will the chickens be primarily as pets or for egg or meat production?
- Do you want them to follow your kids around or will they be contained?
- Is the main purpose to teach responsibility or another purpose?
- Do you want the friendliest chicken or a friendly chicken that lays more eggs?
Best Chicken Breeds To Have As Pets For Children
There are lots of good chicken breeds to choose from. When compiling my list, I went with chickens that had two main qualities. They had to be friendly and calm around people so that they would be better around kids.
They also had to be a little easier to care for. Some chickens are very mellow, but require a lot of extra care and knowledge to keep them healthy.
Those breeds I left off this list. Breeds that require more knowledge and skill might more easily be subject to illness at the hands of a small child. That can be very traumatic for children to have a beloved pet die.
Best Chicken Breeds For Children To Have As Pets:
- Austra White: Friendly and self-reliant
- Australorp: Friendly and calm (even the roosters)
- Barnevelder: Active and friendly
- Black Star: Active and friendly
- Brahma: Large and calm
- Buckeye: No fear of humans, friendly
- Chantecler: Gentle, calm and friendly
- Cochin: Gentle, often photoed in chicken strollers (roosters are friendly also)
- Crevecoeur: Mellow, calm, and gentle
- Dominique: Kid-friendly and adaptable
- Dorking: Great for backyards, gentle
- Faverolle: Gentle and submissive
- Golden Comet: HIgh egg production, friendly
- Houdan: Friendly, but rare
- Jersey Giant: Docile and calm
- Langshan: gentle, but good fliers
- Lohmann Brown: Active and friendly
- Maren: Gentle and quiet
- Minorca: friendly to people, social and playful
- New Hampshire: gentle and friendly
- Orpington: playful and friendly, handles being held well
- Penedesenca: Calm, gentle and predator smart
- Plymouth Rock: Gentle and calm
- Polish: gentle, friendly, and mellow
- Rhode Island Red: Friendly and adaptable
- Sapphire Gem: Super mellow and friendly
- Silkie: gentle and calm
- Sultan: Tame and gentle, but rare
- Sussex: Gentle and calm
- Turken Naked Neck: Gentle and calm
Some of these chickens listed are more active and less likely to be lap chickens. Lap chickens are the breeds that will calmly sit in a child’s lap and enjoy being petted.
All these chickens will generally follow a child around and will rarely attack or be aggressive to people.
How To Raise Friendly, Tame Chickens
The exception to any breed is usually caused by how a chicken is raised. It is important to be gentle with your chickens as even mellow breeds can become more aggressive or skittish if they are handled roughly or hurt by people.
And, even more, active breeds can become gentle and people friendlier if they are raised in a consistent manner.
There are several things to keep in mind when raising chickens.
- Start With A Friendly Breed: Some chicken breeds will always be aggressive, no matter how much time you spend training them. Others will be relatively tame even when little time is spent with them. You can make a difference in how tame a specific chicken can be, but to some extent, you can’t overcome thousands of years of breeding instincts.
- Spend Time With Them. Chickens will be friendly and love the people that they spend time with. It’s important to spend time with your chickens every day. Even if you acquired them as adult hens, you can help them to be friendlier by spending time with them. Try to choose a calm part of the day to spend with them. Mornings and just before dusk are usually busier time as they lay eggs or gather up the last bugs to eat before bedtime. The afternoon tends to be a good time.
- Raise Chicks As Young As Possible. If possible buy your chicks as young as you can. Many hatcheries will mail out day-old chicks. Even if you buy them from a feed store, try to purchase them when they arrive at the store and not a week later. The earlier your chicks get used to seeing and interacting with you, the tamer and friendlier they will be throughout their lives.
- Be Gentle When Handling Them. I have seen a mellow breed of chicken become a very aggressive bird when handled roughly or carelessly by its human owners. Chickens respond much as we would to a mean person and will be much less friendly. Don’t throw your pullets, don’t hang them by their feet, or other uncomfortable things to them.
- Treat Them. Chickens love treats. If you bring treats, even if it’s not daily, they will learn that you give them special attention. They will come running to see what you have for them. It’s not hard to treat your chickens. Just share with them leftover produce that you don’t eat such as apple cores or watermelon rinds. Or purchase mealworms for them. I usually use mealworms as a boost for ill or shy chickens to boost their energy and give some extra TLC.
- Teach Them To Eat Out Of Your Hand. Offer food, but hold your hand steady. Talk in a smooth voice. Simply let them venture forth. Chicks won’t usually take much time to come forth and eat out of your hand. If they are still shy, put some of the treats on the board next to them. Once they know its good and are eating it, offer some to them. When they are used to eating out of your hand, stop putting in on the floor. You can then gently stroke your chicks from their head along their neck to get them used to being petted.
- Don’t Chase Them. Chickens are pretty low on the food chain. There are a lot of predators and so it’s built into chickens to run away when they are being chased. My chickens will follow us around but will run the instant someone starts to chase them. Instead, walk calmly to them and they will send you aren’t there to chase them.
- Talk To Your Chickens. Chickens can and will learn to recognize your voice. Talk to them. Call them when you are coming and they won’t be startled when you appear. They will start responding to your voice when they hear it. They can also tell various tones. Loud, sharp tones are universally known as danger tones in the animal kingdom. Talk in a way that expresses the emotion you want them to understand.
- Training Chickens Is Possible: Chickens can be trained to not poop on you when you hold them. They can be trained to stay away from an area or a porch. Or they can be trained to do simple tricks. The key is consistency and offering a reward or punishment. For example, put a chicken down every time they poop and they will learn to leave when they have to poop and then get back up. Spray them with a water bottle every time and they will learn to stay away from an area. Or reward them with a treat and they will jump or do other simple tricks.
- Enjoy Your Flock. After all- what’s the use of having chickens if you don’t enjoy them? The level of tameness and friendliness you want in chickens will really vary on how much you enjoy them and spend time with them. You can enjoy your chickens for their eggs and have them come running for treats even if you don’t want lap chickens.
How Chickens Are Good For Children
Chickens are very good for kids. Children with pets are more likely to live longer and have a happier life. Those benefits aren’t restricted to just dogs or cats. But, here are some other benefits to owning chickens for kids.
- Teaches Responsibility And Unselfishness. Small and big kids can learn responsibility by being in charge of chicken duties. Small children scatter treats or feed them by hand and collect eggs. Older kids can be responsible to keep the waterer and feeders full, help lock the birds in at nights, and clean the coop.
- Delayed Gratification. It teaches them to care about another living thing besides themselves. They learn to put their immediate wants and needs aside for the good of something else. They learn to put off eating dinner until the chickens are safely locked up, or to let them out, even if they don’t want to go outside in the cold. In this world of instant demand, learning to wait until others are cared for is good for kids.
- Educational. From counting eggs or counting each chicken at night to make sure they are back in the coop, chickens teach kids math. Eggs and chickens come in many colors and hues that can help to teach kids colors and sorting.
- Safe Handling. They learn about how to safely handle chickens. How to be careful and gentle to not harm them. They also learn to wash their hands and not put their fingers in the mouth without washing them. That’s good biosafety.
- Animal Habitat. Chickens teach kids about the intimacies of another species. They learn about chickens’ habits, needs, and reactions. My kids know when the chicken’s excrement changes or when they are acting differently and are learning how to care for them in these different scenarios.
- Therapy Chickens. Kids who need structure or autistic kids can find a lot of growth in interacting with chickens. Chickens aren’t scary and are becoming more popular as therapy animals to help develop communication, play, and interaction skills.
- Low Maintenance Pets. Chickens need little care to stay happy and healthy, food, water, and shelter. Even a few minutes of time letting them out, feeding them and locking them up at night can keep your chickens happy.
- Gratitude. Kids learn the role that animals play in our food production. From giving their lives for the meat on our table to providing us with eggs and milk, kids can learn gratitude for their food. Even honey bees hussle day in and out to provide us with a sweet treat and pollination on our fruits and vegetables.
- Teaches About Death We live in a society that is largely protected from death. Seldom do we prepare or bury our own dead, but instead we pay others to do so. Owning animals teaches children about death and allows them to deal with the heartbreaking circumstances on smaller scales. This teaches them greater resilience as they go through life. They also learn to appreciate animals and people while they are still around.
- Teaches about Sustainable Food. My kids are absolutely heartbroken when their first chicken was accidentally drowned. They can’t fathom the time when we may have to have a rooster butchered. But we are already talking about how life on a farm is more humane and sustainable than factory farming. It teaches our kids to think about the life quality of the animals they eat and to recognize the sacrifice that animals make for us.
- It Makes The Birds and Bees Talk Much Easier. At my house, I try to make the sex talk more of an ongoing natural conversation. I want my kids to ask me questions instead of learning from porn sites or peers. While my youngsters still don’t know what “sex” really means for humans, they do understand that a rooster jumping on a hen is trying to fertilize the eggs. Having both genders of roosters has opened up for some educational conversations that help as my oldest goes through her tweens and starts to navigate the world of boys.
- Environmental Consciousness Chickens will eat table scraps, eliminating much of the food waste that goes to your trash and into the landfill. This is a great way to show kids that even foods that we don’t eat can still be used for good. It helps to teach a waste not mentality.
- Bug Control without Pesticides Chickens eat A.Lot.Of.Bugs. They basically love to eat all day. Allowing your chickens to eat around the yard, even for a few hours a day will drastically reduce the bug population around your place. Plus, it has helped to make my girls less squeamish about bugs. They will now catch a bug to feed to the chickens instead of freaking out when they see one.
Chickens make a great pet for children. The benefits are widespread and varied. Plus, many chicken breeds are very friendly and gentle with chickens. Meat, egg, or ornamental chickens come with breeds that are great for kids. Whether you live in a cold or hot climate, a city or an urban area, there is a chicken breed that is perfect for your family.
What’s your favorite experience with a chicken?