Chickens are teaching our kids responsibility this summer — we hope  

Bodkin chick

If there’s a good way to keep secrets from your kids, it’s beyond me and my wife.

Our kids hear everything, especially if it involves buying something.

That was the case when I recently floated my plan to infuse some responsibility into their summer break.

“Why don’t we get them a couple of chickens to take care of?” they overheard me tell my wife in the kitchen.

Getting chickens was all I heard about for the next hour. Before you could cluck, we were across town picking out a pair. And a beginner’s kit for raising them. And an enormous bag of feed to last a year because, of course, that’s all the store carried.

No biggie. This would be a good thing. We’ll teach them responsibility, I assured my wife: chickens for feedin’, eggs for collectin’, poop for scoopin’.

I’d read about some of the benefits of animal interaction for kids. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, these can include:

  • Increased self-esteem and confidence
  • Greater empathy and respect for others
  • Lower stress levels
  • Increased desire to learn and read

Our normal neighborhood home could never be green acres, but a couple cluckers in the garage or on the patio could teach the kids some responsibility and, apparently, help instill some social and emotional benefits.

It was a great idea. It was my idea.

It wasn’t anything we thought it would be.

All the kids did for the first few hours was fight over who would hold the chicks. Our gushing 3-year-old almost squeezed the Chic-fil-A sauce right out of one while trying to keep it from her older sisters.

After building the cage and adding the feeder and waterer, my wife and I spread some pinewood pet bedding and hung a heat lamp. Late spring’s fluctuating weather sparked debate over how high to position the lamp above the birdcage.

I didn’t want to make chicken nuggets out of them overnight. My wife didn’t want them to freeze. Google helped us split the difference, and we went to bed hoping for the best.

The birds were chirping early the next morning. Win.

Then I realized that the kid had nearly loved the birds to death on Day 1, but hadn’t done any actual work. Loss.

Where were they? Why was I the one checking the chickens early on a Saturday? I wanted answers. I wanted to wake them up.

Then my wife reminded me of something. They’re kids, Devin. They won’t be Colonel Sanders overnight.

I agreed to ease up and was pleased a couple days later to see a chore schedule on the fridge, which our 12-year-old made to keep the chicks fed and the cage clean. We ruffled some feathers holding the kids to the schedule over the next few weeks, but the cage is clean and the birds are chirping.


I’ll update you with any major changes or chick obituaries.

Meanwhile, I’m considering next summer’s animal endeavor: goats.

Daisy Bodkin. She has no relationship to this column but just a darn cute cow.
Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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