Games for Kids and Chickens
Reading Time: 3 minutes
By Jenny Rose Ryan – Kids are drawn to hens, and it seems the opposite is also true — especially once backyard hens realize our small ones can serve as food dispensers, too. And kids love it when hens start to do whatever they ask. It’s a win-win relationship, really.
Here are some fun games to try with kids to reward everyone’s good natures, teach your kids about domestic animal behavior, and make memories that last. Who can resist a docile backyard hen who is almost dog-like in their motivation?
Follow the Trail
Sprinkle popcorn wherever you let your chickens range. Try to make a shape or a pattern, like a heart or a star. Let chickens out. Watch them follow the pattern and eat every single one. Make them chase you, too. It won’t be long before they’re ready for more. (Psst: they don’t care what pattern it is: they just want food. And we just want our kids to run around!)
Tie an Apple on Your Belt
Run a piece of kitchen string through an apple after you core it. Tie it onto a belt or through a belt loop and put it around your child’s waist. Show the chickens the treat. Encourage the child to jump and play — and run away — while trying to get it. This works for anything safe for them to eat.
Freestyle Obstacle Course
Put a hula hoop on the ground. Lay a board over a rock to construct a makeshift seesaw. Hang pieces of fruit along a fence. Cover everything in treats. Release the hens to your design and test their mental mettle. Who will win? Who will be distracted? Who will find a live worm and run away with that instead?
Grass Eating Contest
Pick equal piles of fresh lawn grass or meadow grass so that each “participating” chicken will have the same amount. Put each pile in a different part of the yard or run. Place a chicken at each pile and see who eats theirs first, who runs over to eat the other ones’ piles, and who doesn’t want grass.
Turn Your Hen into a Hulk
Pull the arms off an old action figure with reticulated limbs. Take a small metal wire — even a pipe cleaner or a twist-tie will work — that is long enough to go around your hen at the back, above the wings, and near the neck. Twist each end around each action figure arm, then lay the wire across the back, so the arms hang off their front like a T-rex. You may need to adjust sizing to get them to sit right, but Henrietta won’t mind waiting. Be sure to take them off when she’s sick of it, though.
Make any pasta or noodle according to package instructions (or use leftovers from a finicky toddler butter-noodle lunch). Hang noodles as high as you can through the fencing around your coop, and then move lower and lower until your hens realize what you’ve done. Watch the hilarity ensue as they jump and leap to get every last “worm.”
Why Play Games with Hens?
It’s not because they care. They just want food and anything that might resemble it.
Just like the lessons that come with caring for pets, helping kids understand what animals need and how to care for them — and what motivates them — can help build confidence and awareness about life and encourage our next generation to a greater understanding of the planet and all life on it.
According to the American Society of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and good relationships with pets can help develop trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.
It’s also a great way to help develop a sense of responsibility. It’s fun and funny to watch chickens eat, so that kind of work can start to feel less like a chore and just like a thing someone has to do. My son now has the privilege of being one of our hens’ daily caretakers, and I occasionally get to outsource a few chores. Everyone is happy. Especially our very healthy, well-fed hens.
Originally published in the June/July 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.