Posted by Jennifer Sartell, Professional Homesteader & Blogger, Tue, Feb 27, 2018
Chickens and children are a perfect match. Chickens are an easy animal to take care of and most school-age children should be able to care for a small flock on their own with little help from adults. I think that there is a valuable lesson to be learned in raising chickens at a young age in particular. Not only do kids get the satisfaction of caring for an adorable pet, but they also learn that with responsibility comes reward in the form of eggs in the nesting box. I’ve yet to meet a child that doesn’t get a thrill from collecting a basketful of eggs.
For the most part, all chicken breeds are safe for children to be around. If you can’t seem to find the breeds mentioned below, I wouldn’t let this discourage you from involving your children with a flock. With the exception of an aggressive rooster or maybe a broody hen that is trying to protect her eggs, chickens make wonderful companions for children.
Chickens can also be trained somewhat. If they are handled frequently from chick age, many breeds will come when called, eat out of your hand and tolerate being handled. They’ve even been known to enjoy cuddling and gentle petting.
But if you’re looking for some exceptionally kid-friendly breeds, there are a few that come to mind.
As a rule of thumb (with a few exceptions), if you’re looking for a friendly, more docile breed for your children to raise, choose larger breeds. It’s true that each chicken will have its own personality, but in general larger breeds are more domesticated, with some of the “wild” having been bred out of them. In my experience, most true bantam breeds—including Leghorns, Easter Eggers (Aracauna mixes) and Rhode Island Reds—tend to be uppity.
Below is a list of chicken breeds to keep in mind if you’re looking for pet-type chickens for your children.
The Buff Orpington is my favorite breed. It has been called the “Golden Retriever” of chickens. We also have a Golden Retriever and I couldn’t agree more with this comparison! Orpingtons of any color are a gentle, slow-moving, docile breed.
We used to raise Blue Laced Red Wyandottes—a striking breed with rusty red feathers trimmed in a slate blue lacing pattern. These chickens are not only beautiful, but incredibly friendly and some of the most intelligent birds I’ve ever met. My husband trained a particular cockerel to land on his arm when it was extended. Wyandottes are a substantial breed with heavy plumage and a rose comb. They do well in climates with cold winters.
A very fluffy bird with mounded plumage and heavily feathered legs, this is the teddy bear of chickens. Cochins are easy to handle and quiet. The hens have a deep, soft, gurgling cluck. They also make excellent mothers.
The Australorp is another friendly breed. One of the first chickens I ever raised was an Australorp; I was 13 and independently in charge of my flock. My Australorps were sweet birds—regular layers and easy to handle.
The Jersey Giant is the largest of all chicken breeds. These solid birds are easy to handle, slow moving and quiet.
We used to breed Coronation Sussex, and not only are the hens gentle and sweet but we had some of the most gentle roosters from this breed. The roosters were excellent fathers and would treat the chicks with such care and patience that it made me fall in love with this breed.
These last two breeds are an exception to the “gentle giant” rule. Polish chickens are not only a sweet breed, but one with a crest of feathers on top of their head that makes them extra fun for children to raise. I had a Polish chicken that would sit on my lap while I mowed the lawn on our riding mower. She would also sit in my bike basket. Polish chickens are easy to “catch” and pick up because their crest of head feathers blocks their vision of overhead activity. This discourages children from having to chase them.
Silkies are little birds with funny, gentle personalities. Their soft, down-like plumage makes them an extra sweet choice for children. They also have an incredible instinct to “mother” things. They are slow moving, quirky and a very quiet breed.
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