Age-Appropriate Chores for Children with Chickens
Chicken Coop Cleaning, Egg Collecting, and More!
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He was only a few years old when I let him go down to the chicken coop all by himself to collect morning eggs. I should’ve known it was not an age-appropriate chore, but he was excited. Full of pride, joy, and giggles, he brought one little egg from the coop. But back at the house, out slipped the egg from his hands and splattered onto the floor. Crocodile tears began. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with him. I giggled, though he didn’t think it was funny. I assured him there was no use crying over a splattered egg, and that you can’t fry eggs on the floor, silly.
Later that evening, in an attempt to not discourage him, we went together with a basket, and one by one he loaded all of his little egg prizes with great joy. And no splatters.
Raising chickens and children together is fun, especially if you can start when they are little (the children and the chickens!). There’s nothing quite like teaching mini-homesteaders how to tend a flock. From cuddling chicks to chicken coop cleaning, there are age-appropriate chores for just about anyone. It’s one of the easiest jobs around the barnyard, and it helps the parent plus teaches lifelong skills and responsibility. Involving your family in the farm life is a unique way to connect with one another while getting back to the land. My favorite part of homesteading, and chicken keeping, is when a family gathers together — pun intended.
Homesteading today helps your children learn old-time skills in a modern world. And raising chickens as pets or livestock can the “gateway animal” for you and your kids. Learning where their food comes from is valuable to learn in life. And the feeling of seeing their bounty come to fruition is incomparable.
With these age-appropriate chicken chores, your children can help you around the homestead while still having a little breathing room, and maybe even a little fun!
Age Appropriate Chores for Children
While it’s easier (and quicker) to do chores on your own, try starting mini-chicken-keepers with smaller tasks, then move into certain chores by age. Make sure older children can do all of the things in the age-appropriate list of years before you reach their age on this list.
1 to 3 years: With supervision, children can place eggs in and out of baskets. They can also toss treats to the chickens. Up until the age of 4 (and even beyond), children have ultra-sensitive and immature immune systems. They are very susceptible to contracting bacteria. Make sure you’re not allowing your littlest chicken keepers to do things that could cause harm to them if they place hands in their mouths. Don’t keep them around during coop cleaning time, allow them to pick up dirty eggs, etc.
4 to 6 years: With supervision, children can place eggs in and out of baskets, replace nesting box bedding, feed and water chickens (with limitations), and offer treats and entertainment for the flock. Just make sure they aren’t playing “chase” with the rooster! That could be a recipe for disaster. Ask me how I know . . .
7 to 9 years: Consider individual tasks that your child can do without supervision. Start giving them the singular task of feeding and watering on their own each day. You can monitor them while you’re doing other tasks around the homestead. Once they’ve mastered one chore without supervision, add on more, such as seasonal coop cleaning and daily coop freshening. Just make sure they aren’t too overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed can cause them to become discouraged and not want to do anything at all.
At this age, children can also learn about administering herbs and doing health checks with supervision, and they can also help set up brooders and tend to chicks (again, with supervision).
Another fun part about this age is cooking in the kitchen with your kiddos. Introduce them to egg dishes that they can make on their own, such as scrambled eggs. There’s an excitement when they’ve fed, collected, and cooked their chicken’s eggs!
Your mini-chicken-keepers may explore their own egg or chicken business around this age. Start kindling that desire. Chickens are an easy egg or chick business for little children. It teaches them discipline, responsibility, business attributes, and even shows them how rewarding it is when you do a good job and get paid for your hard work! You might explore local 4-H options as well.
10+ years of age: From 10 years and older, children can completely and independently take care of chickens if they have some prior experience. If not, start at the 7 to 9 age and work your way up.
Children can feed and water chickens, clean out waterers and feed bins, carry feed bags, administer herbs (with some supervision), do routine health checks, fix simple chicken coop and run issues, clean the coop when needed, freshen the coop each day, help tend to and set up chicks (some can do this all on their own, but others may need supervision), and basically all of the things that any chicken keeper would do.
Use sound judgement on things like wing clipping and spur removal, as they may still need some help with the tougher tasks.
It’s All About Maturity
While we can break down chores and abilities by age, the reality is that it comes down to maturity. Some children simply have no interest in chickens and with their lack of maturity, you could do more damage to your flock than good. Do routine daily or every-other-day flock check-ins. Many times I’ve walked to the coop and thought the chores had been done, but sadly, they had not been.
When all else fails, go with what you think your child is capable of doing — no matter their age. Some 7-year-olds may be doing the tasks of a 13-year old without any supervision, while the 13-year old is the one you have to check on each day.
No matter the maturity, encourage your children to be involved. Never try to force them to enjoy their chores. Some children simply won’t like chickens, and that’s okay too! Does it get them out of chores? Not necessarily. But it does teach them that you have a mutual respect for their feelings and opinions, while still enforcing that a working homestead must be tended to, and this is their contribution to the household. Might as well have a little fun while doing it! And maybe at the end of the day, homemade ice cream with this glorious fresh eggs might help as well.
Amy Fewell is homesteader, wife, mama, and the author of The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion and The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook. She is also the founder of the popular Homesteaders of America organization and annual conference. She and her family live on their little homestead in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where they raise heritage breed livestock, grow a kitchen garden, and live a holistic lifestyle from home to barnyard!
Originally published in the August/September 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.