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Fowl Play: Chickens & Kids

Do chickens make good pets? Yes, chickens do make good pets. I would beg to ask, do children make good chicken keepers?

We have 5 hens a rabbit and a dog, and our children help to care for all of them equally, meaning when we remind them to do so. And as cute as the rabbit is and as clever as our dog is, it is the chickens who – when the kids have friends over – garner all the attention and interest.

Those birds are of endless fascination to visiting children, which of course gives our own children a heaping spoonful of pride as well as a bit of know-it-all-ness.

Some children (one boy in particular comes to mind) can be a little rough with the birds, chasing after them in an effort to see if they will take to flight like a plane down a runway. The girls tend to be a bit more gentle but just as fixated, simply resorting to checking for eggs every 15 minutes, which of course means disturbing any poor hen in the coop who might actually be considering laying an egg. (Just as an FYI, our chickens typically don’t lay eggs the day after a children’s party was held in our backyard, they really do need a day to recover from the ‘attention’.)

As for our children and their friends, we think that they have all benefited from their experiences with the chickens. They are all comfortable with the knowledge that eggs are laid by those same chickens in our backyard; they are especially fond of the blue/green ones. And they like eating those eggs as well, in fact we’ve been told by a friend that one certain child only wants to eat ‘Thompson eggs’ because “they taste better and are pretty” – he’s a smart kid that one.

Of course one of the main reasons we got chickens to begin with was so our children could learn about where their food comes from as well as to introduce the idea of farming and animal husbandry to them. But there have been other lessons learned that we initially didn’t consider, not until attending our local 4H poultry club that is.

The 4-H really encourages families to let the children take responsibility for the care of the birds as well as the management of the flock and the eggs. They strongly advocate the sale of eggs and discourage eggs being given away for free. The idea is to value the work of the chickens as well as the work of the children and to teach some simple economics; the cost to care for the birds should be reflected in the sale price of the eggs. We decided that our son would get to keep the proceeds from the sale of the eggs if he cared for the chickens; it’s our alternative to a paper route.

All kidding aside, if you plan to keep a flock and have youngish children (5 and under), the CDC has a document entitled “So you want to raise chickens”. It’s filled with common sense suggestions, mostly around sanitation, but it is worth the fast read. Additionally, here is a short list of advice we wanted to share from personal experience:

  1. Hens really do have a tender disposition and can easily get stressed by the attention children pay to then. For the sake of the birds if not the kids, visiting children should be supervised.
  2. If you have roosters, be cautious with them around the children. From our experience, they can be aggressive and territorial and will peck at legs or whatever other body part they can get to.
  3. Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching chickens or anything in their environment. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Bacteria on your hands can be easily transferred to objects, the birds and other people in your home.

Books to inspire and inform:
Your Chickens; A Kid’s Guide to Raising and Showing: This book covers budgeting, pecking order, health care and egg exploration.

One Hen – How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference: One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm and a livelihood for many.

Thinking of Starting a Flock of Your Own?

Easter is right around the corner and most pet and feed stores – as well as many hardware and farm-supply stores – will be selling the cutest little baby chicks you’ve ever seen in your life. So cute in fact, that you just might be tempted to buy one or six and start a flock of your own.

And while caring for chickens is a pretty straightforward task, it’s still a commitment that deserves some serious thought and consideration. As it turns out, Mark (Eggzy co-founder and my hubby), is teaching a two-day class on what it takes to start a flock of your own. We decided to share his outline here, and while we’ve had to edit out quite a bit, it’s still a good overview for beginners.

As always, we welcome your feedback and input and if you think we missed anything major that a newbie should know please do drop us a line or post a comment below.

First things first, do you even know if you can keep a flock of your own – does your town and/or city allow chickens? Hopefully the answer is yes, but check with your local authority, there may be ordinances you need to follow. Sadly, there is no single national service that lists all pro-chicken municipalities but does keep a current list of ordinance laws.

Next you have to ask yourself why you want to keep chickens. Answering that question will help to guide several other decisions down the road, like what kind of chickens you want and how many you should get. We think one of the best reasons for keeping chickens are those healthy and delicious eggs that they produce, but there’s also services they provide such as bug control and the creation of excellent fertilizer, to name a few.

Choosing which breeds to start with depends on your purpose for wanting to keep chickens, as well as your location and/or climate zone. Since most folks we know keep chickens for their eggs (and not their meat or for heritage conservation), we’ll assume that eggs are also your primary reason for wanting a flock. And unless you’re ordering your chicks from a hatchery, chicks for sale at local retailers would probably already be vetted for regional appropriateness – note some birds are considered hardier for cold weather than others. You can also refer to our breeds guide and resources page for additional breed information.

When deciding how many chickens to have in your flock, keep in mind that even the most prolific breeds produce no more than one egg every 25 hours. So if your family eats 1 doz. eggs a week, you need enough birds to lay 1 doz. a week. The general rule of thumb in terms of productivity is:

  • 2 commercial layers (~6 eggs/wk/bird) or
  • 3 heritage breed layers (~4 eggs/wk/bird)


Lastly, if you are starting with baby chicks, you’ll need to keep them indoors, in a safe and warm environment for between 4 to 6 weeks of age. You’ll need; feeders & waterers,  and, if starting baby chicks, a brooder, a heat lamp & thermometer, and safe bedding material. All this can probably be purchased at the same place you buy your baby chicks, if not, again check out our resources page for a list of hatcheries and suppliers. We recommend that you plan for the chicks before you bring them home … think of it as a nursery for the chickies.

Once you have them, you’ll need to feed them starter feed up until about 4 weeks old, then grower/developer feed once they are pullets, which is 5 to 18 weeks old. And make sure to check on them daily and give them lots of fresh water. This stage is the hardest part of having a flock of your own; we’ve planned weekends and spring breaks around new chicks, but then again they are just so cute, who would want to leave their side anyway?

And if all of this just sounds way too overwhelming to you, can always rent some chicks to give the family a fun Easter peep experience before making a full-blown commitment of your own.

Recipe no 9: The Souffle

Is it just me, or does the thought of making a souffle conjure images of the slapstick antics of Lucille Ball and as such spell disaster in the kitchen? For whatever reason I can’t exactly put my finger on, baking a souffle has always intimidated me.

It wasn’t until we had our own flock and an extra 3 dozen eggs sitting in the fridge that I found the courage to give it a try, it seems that 30-some-odd eggs was the motivation I needed to overcome my fear of the souffle flop.

According to Wikipedia, the word soufflé is ‘French for souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”.’ Of course that ‘puff’ is the trademark of a successful souffle. And there lies the mystery, the challenge and the intrigue of the souffle, the puff. (See video below of a time lapse taken every 5 seconds of a souffle rising in the oven.)

Now perhaps I’m oversimplifying matters but it seems to me that all souffles are made from two basic components; an egg custard base made from the yolks (fat), and a meringue, made from the whites (protein).

According to Chef Jeffrey Buben, ‘When you beat egg whites, you’re basically mixing air into them. The protein in the egg whites forms a kind of skin around the bubbles of air. But if there’s any fat present (yolks), the skin can’t form and the air leaks away.”

Tips for a successful souffle:

  • Eggs separate more easily into yolks and whites when they are chilled
  • Carefully separate your egg whites from the yolks. Any traces of fat from the yolks will keep the whites from beating up properly.
  • Bring the egg whites to room temperature before you beat them, they will foam more rapidly and to greater volume
  • It’s best to use steel or metal bowl for beating egg whites
  • Always start with a clean dry bowl to whip the white


There are two major kinds of souffles, savory and sweet (aka dessert souffles), here are a couple of popular recipes, given them a try and tell us what you think.


Featured Flock Owner: Holcombe Fluffs

Everyday we get users logging on; adding eggs, sending updates, searching for eggs, giving feedback and telling us what’s what!

We’ve got members all across the country; in different time zones, climates and altitudes, all with one obvious thing in common – chickens. But what about the not-so-obvious things we have in common? For this reason we bring you a new series of Eggzy member profiles. Once a month we plan to feature an Eggzy flock owner and find out a little bit more about who we are collectively.

We’re happy to launch our series with a member who first started using Eggzy about a year ago – she was our 51st registered flock owner! Everyone, please give a warm ‘hello’ to Hollie.

– Hollie Holcombe is a LEED certified architect and owner of her own design business, you can learn more about her work at

Eggzy: What is the name of your Eggzy egg stand?
Hollie: It’s currently called “Holcombe Fluffs,” although I’m not sure anybody but us ‘gets it.’ We call our chickens ‘fluffies’ because it’s cute.

Eggzy: When did you join Eggzy?
Hollie: Gee, I’m not sure when it was, but I joined Eggzy as soon as I heard about it because it just made sense

Eggzy: Where are you located?
Hollie: We’re in Conshohocken, PA – just NW of Philadelphia.

Eggzy: Tell us something about yourself?
Hollie: The chickens were the inspiration for me to start my own business. I wanted to call it “Green Rooster Design” because we had a particularly interesting rooster at the time, but that business name was already taken. One day the rooster was being quite a rascal, and then it hit me; that’s when Green Rascal Design was ‘hatched.’

Eggzy: How long have you been keeping chickens?
Hollie: We got our first 6 chicks (un-sexed!) in September of 2009.

Eggzy: Why do you keep chickens (For eggs, for meat, for show, as pets, etc.)?
Hollie: We got them as pets, and we enjoy the eggs. We planned to use their waste in our compost bins to start our vegetable garden with. Another big plus is that they eat all our table scraps and veggie bits from making dinner, such as bell pepper and tomato cores.

Eggzy: How many birds to you have?
Hollie: We currently have six hens.

Eggzy: What do you feed your birds? Organic? Conventional? Table scraps?
Hollie: The fluffs eat organic feed unless the feed store runs out (oops!), table scraps, leftovers, and whatever they can get their beaks on in the garden (which we grow organically).

Eggzy: How do you raise your birds, are they pastured?
Hollie: Since we’re in an urban area, they spend about 70% of their time in their cage, which is 10′ by 15′ with hardware cloth on the 7′ ceiling. We have a lot of dogs, cats, possums and hawks to deal with. The other 30% of the time they’re either in their Fluff Utility Vehicle (FUV), which is a smaller cage we move around the yard so they can get grass, etc, or they’re roaming under our direct supervision while we’re out picking veggies or berries.

Eggzy: Do you have a favorite breed?
Hollie: We love Ameraucanas because they’re so sweet, and the fluffy beards are so cute.

Eggzy: Do you name your chickens?
Hollie: Yes, they all have names. The brown red ones are Cinnamon and Nutmeg. The cuckoo marans mix is Pepper. The little rhode island red/leghorn mix is Sugar. And the younger ones are Pumpkin (red-black) and Clover (blue wheaton).

Eggzy: Do you cull birds from your flock? (After their egg productivity peaks, extra roosters, etc.)?
Hollie: We gave away our roosters, but we don’t do any culling ourselves. We don’t expect Pepper or Sugar to lay eggs again, but they’re still part of the family.

Eggzy: Do you have any advice, tips or insights you would like to share?
Hollie: I’m always the most interesting person in the room at networking events. All I have to do is mention the chickens, and people just flock to me (no pun intended). So if you’re new to chicken-keeping be prepared for attention and lots of questions.