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One of the best, easiest pets for young children

Updated on January 26, 2015
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Chickens are a low maintenance and friendly pet

If you have some yard space and want a low maintenance, friendly pet, then consider chickens.

Chickens really do seem to meet many of the requirement for a perfect family pet, particularly if young children are concerned.

Firstly, chickens can be great companions. Like most things, you get back what you put in to something. Untamed chickens can be shy and skittish of being picked up. However, a tame chicken can be very companionable and friendly. Tame chickens, who trust a person, will allow themselves to be picked up and cuddled. They will also crouch down and "freeze" to indicate to a person that they would like to be stroked. A chicken who is comfortable around a person will also come up and greet them. Their feathers are very soft to the touch. As chickens are relatively light, they are also fairly easy for a small child to hold.

It does takes a few weeks to get a chicken to this stage of friendliness. However, it can be done by spending daily time with the animals and consistently offering them small treats over a number of weeks. This could be as simple as throwing them a small amount of their favourite food when you approach. A chicken can also be taught to eat food scraps out of a person's hand. Gradually they will learn to trust people until they get to the stage that they will follow you around, rather than run away from you.

Chickens are also very expressive and can be very appreciative of treats thrown their way. Young children will often enjoy watching chickens run across a yard in order to joyfully peck at food scraps put out for them.

Chickens can also prove to be quite intelligent. They have even been know to peck out tunes on xylophones or pianos in return for their favourite treats!

Of course, hens also give their own treats back to their owner-family in the form of eggs. Many young children will enjoy collecting fresh eggs from their chicken coop. This can be a rewarding job for a young child. The egg gathering can also extend into other activities that children can enjoy, such as cooking. If the chicken laying is prolific enough, kids may even want to either give away or sell the eggs to others. The egg collecting experience can also help children learn about animal welfate. Chickens will stop laying when they moult or when they are unwell. Therefore, there can be discussions about good animal care or even how the chickens reproduce.

Unlike dogs, which require a daily commitment to exercise, chickens are relatively easy to maintain. One of the best things about chickens is that they put themselves to bed at night. Once twilight starts, they will instinctively go back into their coop. All that is required is to shut the door of their coop so that they are safe from nighttime predators. In the morning, it can also be a child's job to open the coop door and let the chickens out for the day.

There are a few other regular jobs that need to be performed to look after chickens adequately. It is a good idea to spray chickens (particularly under their wings) for mites. This can be done on a weekly basis. Spray can be obtained from pet or animal produce stores. This job should only take a few minutes to do, assuming the animal is tame enough to allow itself to be picked up. It is also recommended that chickens are wormed, normally this is twice a year. Many worm applications can be added to the chickens' drinking water. In the name of good hygiene, chicken droppings should be collected regularly and added to a compost heap.

If the chickens are able to go free range, then they will be able to forage for their own food. However, most owners will still supplement their chickens with pellets. This ensures they are getting adequate amounts of protein and a range of vitamins and minerals. Of course, providing fresh drinking water is also essential to their health and welfare.

Chickens are also good pets for young children because they are a relatively safe animal. Unlike some cats, they do not have a propensity to scratch. Clearly, unlike dogs, they also do not have the potential to bite. Obviously families must obey rules of common sense when safety is concerned. Chickens do have sharp claws, so it's not a good idea for a young child to hold a chicken close to their face in case they get pecked or scratched. Also, good hygeine should be practised. Children should be reminded to wash their hands after handling their chickens or their eggs.

Overall, a great pet for children and their families to enjoy. You also get the bonus of fresh eggs.

Check out the piano playing chicken.

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