Why do so many homeschoolers choose to add chickens to their backyards?
Homeschooling has a particular advantage of reaching beyond the classroom to include real life skills….such as raising chickens. At the heart of homeschooling lies the integration of education and real life as it happens around us. In the classroom, these worlds are often divorced. Many homeschoolers reach beyond teaching academics at home and weave ‘common arts’ skills such as gardening, woodworking, sewing, cooking, and animal husbandry into their daily lives. Although some homeschoolers choose to live completely off the grid, this lifestyle is either not possible or not that appealing for everyone. Raising chickens in your backyard seems to strike the right balance of integrating a small aspect of farming into our lives. Seeing life come into being as little chicks make their way out of the shell, observing it unfold as the fluffy creatures turn into feathered teenagers, and then go on to provide a source of food as full-grown chickens is an education of a completely different kind and provides a unique connection to reality.
As common arts educator Christopher Hall observes:
Orderly animal husbandry is humbling. We not only witness but oftentimes participate in the fullness of life: birth, death, sickness, health, humor, gravity, attentiveness, and wonder are all part of the experience.”Christopher Hall, Common Arts Education
Beyond these more philosophical reasons, homeschoolers are practical. Chickens are easy to keep, they are entertaining, and helpful, providing not only eggs but also nutrient rich compost for the garden – they can even be used to efficiently till your garden beds!
What is the educational value of raising chickens?
- Personal / Leadership development
- develop personal responsibility for feeding and watering chicks
- accountability for the chicks well being – they depend on you to live
- observation skills – assess behaviour and health indicators of chicks
- train visitors in chick handling
- after a short time children who are involved in the care and raising of chicks become quasi ‘eggsperts’ and take pride in sharing their knowledge with other children and adults
- witness the life cycle from egg to full-grown chicken
- study the anatomy of a chicken
- observe the growth of feathers – you can literally see the difference each morning!
- reproductive cycle – did you realize that eggs are actually a chicken’s ‘period’?
- recognize and treat common disorders
- learn about predators
- plan and design a coop for your flock
- take into consideration available space, location quality, landscape layout
- use innovation to source materials
- develop hands-on carpentry skills
- Financial Planning
- calculate a budget for feed, bedding per week/ per month
- learn to create a spreadsheet for expenses as well as income if you are selling eggs
- practice price and quality comparison of feed
- study different breeds of chicken from around the world
- locate the origin of the breeds on a world map
- study the climates of these regions and how chickens have adapted to them
- Nutrition / Cooking
- learn to prepare a myriad of egg dishes – start with these dishes from the Fresh Eggs Daily blog
- learn to preserve eggs through freezing, pickling, or oiling.
- study the nutritional value of eggs – they are considered the “perfect” food containing almost all necessary nutrients for life, lacking only Vitamin C
It’s the end of the world as we know it….and that is why we are raising chickens.
Fear not – I do not mean that the world is literally coming to an end. However, the world as we have known it has changed drastically over the last two years. These changes have prompted mainly families to consider how they can move toward being more self-sufficient. Increasing food prices are prompting us to reexamine how and what we eat. Homeschool list-serves are bursting with questions about how to garden for sustenance, how to save seeds, and how preserve food through canning and dehydration. Families are also looking toward sourcing food directly from farmers and building connections with local farms. Our increasing preoccupation with the digitization of society also brings about a desire to return to simpler ways of living, and connecting with nature more directly. And since we cannot all add a cow to our backyard for our daily milk, adding a small flock of backyard chickens, although a very small step toward self-sustenance, might at least point our walk in the right direction.
Resources to get homeschoolers started on backyard chickens and more…
Fresh Eggs Daily Blog – One of the best ‘Chicken blogs’ I have come across – even includes Chicken Math homeschool lessons