Chickens can make great pets for children, but it helps to have hens that are predisposed to being docile and easy to care for. The following breeds are known for their laid-back or even affectionate personalities – but there are exceptions to every rule. Discover the breeds that are the most likely to be a good fit for your children, and tips to boost the confidence of young chicken keepers and their charges.
Orpingtons are big, bold birds that are known for their almost dog-like personalities. In fact, buff Orpingtons are referred to as the “golden retriever” of chickens – not just due to their color, but also for their gentle nature. Orpingtons are easily tamed and trained, but do need a large chicken run to keep them fit and active.
Curious and outgoing, Plymouth Rocks are also big and docile, securing their status as a good choice for children. Plymouth Rock chicks are fully feathered by 6 weeks of age, and hens are excellent layers of cream-colored eggs. Their hardy nature makes them easy to care for, and their coloring provides a beautiful addition to any backyard.
Silkie chickens aren’t just fun to look at – these unusual-looking birds also make great backyard pets for kids. Their unique feathers render them flightless, and their relatively small size is perfect for children to handle. Silkies are also known to go broody more than other breeds, so if hatching eggs is of interest to your children, a Silkie hen is a great choice.
Another distinct-looking breed, Polish chickens are as quirky in personality as they are in appearance. These crested hens come in a variety of beautiful colors and feather patterns, and are a spectacle to watch scratch for bugs and grains. Their taller, lankier bodies make them a little more agile than some heavier breeds, so providing chicken perches is a fun pastime for your kids to enjoy with their hens.
Adaptable and personable, the Sussex makes a fine addition to families with children. These chickens are excellent layers, foragers, and are hardy through all of the seasons. The speckled variety is a favorite among flock-raisers, but other colors and patterns are available. Sussex are graceful and gentle birds that can easily be won over by treats and attention.
Rhode Island Reds
A breed of chicken with a rich history, Rhode Island Reds are among some of the most popular hens for families and farms alike. Because they are so widespread, their personalities can vary widely – but they are known to be hardy, outgoing, and self-sufficient. Rhode Island Reds are prolific layers, providing brown eggs year-round. They’re also excellent foragers, and aren’t particularly vocal, making them peaceful backyard companions.
A note about roosters
Roosters are a wild card in any flock. Some experienced flock-raisers may be able to curb their bold personalities, but in general, roosters are not suitable to be around children. A rooster may see an adult as an authority figure, but small children that make sudden movements will provoke a rooster to do their natural duty – defend their hens. Smaller breeds of chickens have roosters that might not pose much of a physical threat to children, but it’s traumatic all the same to have an aggressive rooster at your heels. Because of their innate behaviors, it’s best to leave roosters to the very experienced and older chicken keepers.
Tips for success
There are several things your children can do to win the trust of your flock and build confidence as budding chicken keepers. But, no matter the methods you employ, be sure to sit down with your children before assigning them chicken duty to lay a strong foundation.
No matter which breeds you choose, some universal things for children to know about chickens are:
- They are prey animals, and as such, are hardwired to be nervous and easily startled by sudden movements and loud noises.
- All chickens have claws and sharp beaks. Even if it’s unintentional, the occasional scratch or accidental peck is inevitable.
- They have fragile legs and wings, and should always be held properly.
- With time and patience, they can build a bond with you just as any other pet.
Chicks vs grown hens
Starting with chicks is usually the easiest way for children to learn how to care for chickens and proper handling techniques. But, even mature hens can be tamed through regular treat offerings and quality time spent with your children. By following steps to familiarize your chickens with human touch, your flock will soon accept the affection of your children.
If you select your hens as adults, you’ll be able to get a pretty clear picture of their personality – whereas chicks are molded from the time they are hatched. If you’re purchasing grown hens from a breeder, ask if they’ve been handled by children in particular. Should you decide to start with chicks, have your children handle them daily from the time they are 4-5 days old.
Treats: the ultimate chicken tamer
Nearly every breed of chicken is motivated by food. Most hens will eagerly greet you and your children at the run door in anticipation of food, and even free-range flocks will come running when they hear your back door open. Having your children hand-feed their hens can help convert any breed of chicken into a child-friendly, feathered friend.
Omlet, your chickens, and your children
No matter which breed of chickens you settle on for your kids, the experience of keeping chickens is magical not just in childhood, but for all walks of life. And, by choosing Omlet products like our easy-to-clean chicken coops, spacious walk in chicken runs, and automatic chicken coop door, your children will have the support of expertly designed creations that make caring for their chickens fun and easy.