By far the fastest way to get farming/homesteading into your child’s heart is to let them experience baby farm animals. There is something about a baby chick, goat or pig that is irresistible. The second way is to give your child a part of farming that is all their own. A great parenting book I enjoyed constantly used examples of how his local Amish would give their children sections of their best garden space to to raise their own little garden to “gain the love of farming”. We were lucky enough to be able to combine both by giving our children their very own baby chicks.
My youngest bought me these Chicken Leg Bands for Mother’s Day. It was a lot of money for a little guy who only earns $2.50 a week at his chore. He spent more than usual because he felt a little guilty for talking me into the size 9 bands (on the left) a few weeks earlier even though I was pretty sure we needed the size 11 (on the right). In just a month’s time it was clear that the size 9 is far too tight for a Plymouth Barred Rock and the Rhode Island Reds are also more comfortable with the larger size.
Guilt wasn’t the only reason he bought the bands though….my youngest really loves knowing which two chickens are his. For the record, he has two, Midnight: a dark colored Plymouth Barred Rock hen that even as a fluffy chick was darker than all the others. The other is Wildfire: a Rhode Island Red with lots of variation in her feathers…one wing feather almost strawberry blonde and some so dark they are almost black. As a bit of insurance each child has two in case some unfortunate Racoon or Hawk incident happens.
The family business when I was a kid was raising and training German Sheppard Guard Dogs for Police Departments, Sheriff offices and personal protection. Dad was good at what he did, so waiting lists formed and people sometimes chose their puppy long before it was ready to leave the mother. Dad kept track using finger nail polish on the left front nails. This was particularly helpful for children picking out their puppy who didn’t want to wait another 2-3 weeks for it to be fully weened. It gave those children a sense of ownership.
Something more permanent is preferred when you have a flock of 9 that need to be distinguishable even as adults. There are bands for sale that allow you to number your chickens all the way to 100 in the same color so that you can make a detailed breeding plan and track egg production. However, only a few are large enough for a Plymouth Barred Rock, most are pigeon sized and all require catching the chicken in order to read the number. For a backyard flock like ours with engaging the kids being the primary objective, these colorful bands work best. Simply have a child hold the chicken while you open the ring as wide as possible and slip it over the ankle. For us it was a two-person job.
Get the correct size from the beginning so you don’t have to redo this…taking it off can cause you to accidentally scratch your hen’s leg. You could also print up a little list of hen/rooster names with their color and give one to each kid. I sealed mine in packing tape and keep in my phone case so my kids can ask any time which hen is which. My eldest’s best friend even named the last hen, so Sriracha is ‘his hen’. Engaging a 15-year-old with your flock: priceless.
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