Two weeks ago, in collaboration with the East Lake School Coalition, we led a city chickens outing with ten 2-4 year olds and their parents.
Though most families were from intown neighborhoods, one made the trek all the way from Marietta for our outing.
I was a bit nervous about the outing because young kids are often afraid of chickens. So, I set up the class to introduce the chickens to the children in stages. While families were arriving, everyone stayed outside of the chicken yard. Once everyone had gathered, I went inside the yard and showed the kids that I was comfortable with the birds. I then caught one hen and brought her outside the fence in my arms, lowered her to the kids’ level, and showed them how to pet her. We looked at the different parts of the chicken body. I even held one bird upside down (for only a short time) so the kids could touch her feet and spur nubbin.
By this time, the kids were getting used to the idea of these big dinosaur-esque birds. So, I brought out Spilly (our blind chicken) and let her walk in circles among them while they petted her. Finally, I invited any children who wanted to meet the chickens into the chicken yard. Everyone came in! We explored the coop, collected eggs, tried to pick up the chickens, and fed them a whole loaf of white bread.
There were only a couple melt-downs among the kids, which I think must be expected when you get 10 young children together with strange animals. The most beautiful thing that I saw was that the kids went from marveling at the birds to playing with and around the chickens as if they were normal pets in only an hour. Though most Americans have been separated from connections with their food sources, these kids spent an hour playing in my yard with chickens all around them.
To end the class, I lit a campfire in the fire pit and we all sat in a circle while I told the story of “Spilly & the Swallow,” an adaptation of “The Mole and the Swallow” story that my father tells on his children’s album, Howjado?
Finally, we all made paper plate chickens (which the kids immediately realized were perfect “chicken hats”). You can view the patterns on Denise Fleming’s website.
What a fun afternoon! One of the children still stops by every few days with his mom to feed our chickens. I look forward to our next City Chicks Kids outing in the next couple months. Until then, check out the East Lake School Coalitions other outings.