Fay's Got Chickens
At Fay, we think deeply about our students’ futures. We regularly ask ourselves, “How can we best prepare our students for the world they will inherit?” You might be surprised by one recent conclusion we have drawn: by raising chickens! Our journey to building a chicken coop started with us thinking about children gardening. As we dug into the benefits of gardening, someone said to us, “You know what can get your ground ready for gardening? Chickens.” The more we thought about chickens and talked to parents and local experts, the more we realized that raising chickens could benefit our students in countless ways.
Beyond the classic incubator life cycle lessons, we have connected numerous academic curricula to raising chickens. Think of the math skills our students will use to take care of the chickens: They will keep data on egg production. Collecting and analyzing data lends itself to lessons in mean, median and mode, multiplying, predicting, measuring, and counting. Students will also become more observant scientists as they monitor the health of the flock, write how-to books, and learn about safety and nutrition. Most schools that raise chickens have students who sell eggs. We assume our students will want to start an egg selling business, too, but we are resisting the urge to tell our students all of our chicken schemes because we know that our creative-thinking leaders will come up with proposals on their own. We recognize when students generate ideas, they take ownership of them and take more pride in their work. Having chickens will challenge our students to go beyond the basics and apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-life situations.
We talk a lot about leadership development and emotional intelligence at Fay because we know that both now in their daily activities and their future careers, students need to have self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy. These lessons can be acquired in the chicken run, too. Students will learn about responsibility and nurturing as we feed and water the chickens daily. Older students will teach younger students about science concepts. The pecking order is a real thing in the chicken yard, and thinking through tending our flock will hold many life lessons such as this for our students. In Rich Louv’s new book, Our Wild Calling, he explores the human-animal connection and the positive impact it has on our spirit, health, and sense of connectedness. We know that beyond the academic and social-emotional learning, our students will love having chickens as pets, enjoy watching their antics in the yard, and adore caring for these creatures.
There are also many environmental benefits to backyard chickens. Chickens will help our soil. They love to dig and scratch in the dirt, turning over leaf litter as they prepare our ground for an eventual garden. We will use their manure to fertilize our flower beds. Keeping chickens is also a natural insecticide. They will gobble up ticks, mosquitos, and insects that harm plants. Chickens will also eat table scraps reducing food waste from our lunches. A single chicken can eat about two pounds of organic matter a month!
Hands-on, inquiry-based learning allows children the opportunity to think deeply about their lessons. We may not know what types of jobs our children will have in the future, but we do have hints about what skills and dispositions they will need to succeed in the new economy. We know that raising chickens will add purpose and stickiness to both their academic and social-emotional learning. We also know that raising chickens will bring more joy, inquisitiveness, and environmental awareness to our students. And that’s why “Fay's got chickens!”
About Melissa: When she’s not thinking about school, Melissa is currently sharpening her omelet making skills and beginning to amass a chicken-themed wardrobe. Having raised horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, snakes, and hamsters, she is egg-cited to add a flock of chickens to the list of animals that have enriched her life. Along with a few others at Fay, Melissa is also becoming quite the comedi-hen as she works chicken puns into any conversation she can. By the way, what happened to the chicken who got sent to the principal’s office? He got egg-spelled!