Learning Chicken Ways
Our baby chicks are growing by the minute and teaching us all about chicken ways. It seems like there is a visible change in their development every morning and evening. Their tail feathers and wing feathers are growing, and they’re getting taller. They can stretch their necks up and reach the top of their tank if they stand on the food tray. If we leave the top off the tank when we change the water, they can jump up to the edge and hop out!
After a field trip to a farm, my boys each brought home an egg. We decided to buy an icubator to see what would happen. Lo and behold, we are now the proud parents of three adorable baby chicks. (I wouldn’t be a homeschool mom if I didn’t use this opportunity for ‘school credit’ and turn this experience into a hands-on science class!)
We have a mixed batch of one yellow and two black and cream colored babies. No telling what breed they are since the owner of the broody hen has a collection of various breeds. The yellow chick is bigger than the other two, and he(?) seems to be the dominant one in the bunch. Their feet are so funny–they are too big for their bodies and look like they are made out of rubber, but when they sit on our hands, their feet are soft and warm.
All of the chicks are very sociable, and when we talk to them or approach the tank, they run to get as close to us as they can, and they jump up and down trying to get to us.
They enjoy being held, and the boys made them a “playpen” by cutting the sides off two large cardboard boxes and taping them together to make a ‘fence.’ We put a paper tablecloth left over from a birthday party on the floor inside the pen and let them run around.
So far, our cats are not interested in being around them when they’re out, and our dog acts like he’s afraid of them!
Lesson Plans & Chicken Ways
Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study has a section on chicks that includes some wonderful information for turning a study of chicks into a lesson. She writes about the “chicken ways,” describing how to teach children the “details” of chicks, from the egg tooth and downy feathers, to the ways they eat, sleep, and communicate.
- There is also a discussion of the differences between chickens and “perching birds.” I read this section first, and then I talked about it with my boys and read passages to them.
- We looked at our chicks and observed the details Anna Comstock wrote about. I followed the prompts in the book to ask the boys questions about their observations of the chicks and about what they remember from our visit to the farm where we got the eggs.
If you haven’t seen this book, it is a wonderful resource for science and nature study and is a complete field guide as well. I have used it countless times since we began our homeschool journey, and it has become one of my go-to resources. It has a place on our bookshelves, but it is usually out on my desk or tossed in my bag when we’re on the go.
In addition to the handbook, we have visited our local feed and seed store a few times to get chick starter feed and have ended up spending a half hour each time talking to the knowledgeable staff and farmers who stop in. The boys have loved visiting the baby chicks, turkeys, ducks, and mama cat and kittens who inhabit this wonderland, and we’ve brought home some vegetable plants for our garden. These visits have become weekly field trips.
We also bought a couple of hobby farm magazines with articles on chickens to learn more about taking good care of our little chicky-babies. Click here for our favorite picture books about chickens.
Our foray into backyard chickens has been a fun journey, and we’re excited to see what they do next!