We are what you would call, “animal people.” Rather, the kids and I are. My husband is guilty by association.
Our friends and family sometimes refer to our place as the ‘Riojas Mini Farm.’ Our creature family currently consists of 3 rescued dogs, 5 rescued cats (2 inside, 3 barn cats), 2 Red Eared Sliders (aquatic turtles), a Sulcata Tortoise, 2 Land Hermit Crabs, 12 chickens and 3 roosters. Goats and Honeybees will be the next additions to our menagerie.
One lessons that I am adamant about driving home to my children is to respect all animal and insect life. (Except roaches, I’ll have to be a hypocrite in that area.)
Since they were very small, we’ve taught our kids to step over ants, view wildlife from a safe distance, leave wild animals wild, and to be respectful of all other life forms.
Making the decision to take on the care of so many animals has been an excellent way to encourage responsibility and kindness among our children. In return, they welcome the extra tasks and take pride in caring for the non-human members of our family. Our chickens, in particular are cared for almost primarily by our 7 year old twins, Reese and Riley. They clean the coop, collect eggs and ensure that the chickens and roos always have clean water. We like to allow our chickens to free range when possible, but my husband built a large coop so they would have a safe place to go, especially at night. We live on 5 acres and the predators are plentiful.
Recently, I sat down with Reese and Riley and asked what info they would share with someone who is interested in caring for chickens. Or, someone who already has chickens but could benefit from the wisdom of my little experts, with JUST a little refreshing of the memory from me here and there. Here’s what the kids had to share.
Fowl Play Q&A with Reese and Riley:
- Q: What do chickens eat?
- Riley: Starter Feed for baby chicks, when they are a little bigger, we feed them grower feed then layer pellets or crumbles when they are 6 months old, right Mommy? Also, corn, lettuce, watermelon. They eat bugs from the ground, grass and they looove worms.
- Q: What are some foods that are not safe for chickens?
- Reese: Hmm. Let’s see. No avocados, raw potatoes, seeds from fruits like apples, no onions, chocolate (side note: or anything that has caffeine) or foods that have mold on them. No citrus like oranges.
- Q: How do chickens take baths/cleanse themselves?
- Riley: In dirt! They dig a hole and then use their wings and claws to scratch in the dirt and toss it on themselves. Then, they shake it off like a dog does after a bath. It’s soo funny!
- Q: What do we add to the chickens water to help keep them healthy and why?
- Reese: Apple Cider Vinegar. It helps keeps worms out of their bodies and helps the water stay clean.
- (Side note: Don’t use ACV in metal waterers, only plastic. We use 1 TBSP per gallon of water.)
- Q: Do chickens have teeth?
- Riley: They don’t have any teeth! But they can sure peck hard!
- Reese: Ohh. I remember. This is why we give them grit to help them grind food.
- Q: Are their eggs only white in color?
- Riley: No, none of our eggs are white, are they? Our hens lay blue, green, grey and brown eggs.
- Q: What do we use as a substrate i.e. for the bottom of the coop?
- Both: HAY! Or pine or grass.
- (Side note: We like the deep litter method for the coop bottom. We lay about 6 inches of bedding on the coop bottom. When it has been used and “pooped” on, we use a shovel to turn it over and bring a layer back to the surface. Repeat. Always ensure that the bottom is approximately 6 inches. Be sure to completely replace and clean out the coop bottom at least twice a year. Don’t use cedar as its oils can irritate the chickens lungs.)
- Q: Do you need to have a rooster in order for the hen to lay eggs?
- Reese: No, the hens will lay eggs on their own at about 5-6 months. But if you want them to hatch, they will need a rooster to help. Mommy, tell them that we had our first two hatchlings last month!
- Q: What do you like most about having chickens?
- Riley: They are so cute and fluffy as hatchlings. I like to get them used to me and they stay friendly and cuddly even when they grow up.
- Reese: I like the furry babies too when they hatch and the regular eggs, they taste so good.
Still interested in more information? This is an awesome resource we use often.
Thank you for reading! Happy raising, hatching or egg collecting!