Chickens

Ages 3-6

Why I Made This Kit

Our family keeps a small backyard flock of chickens. When we first got our hens we weren’t sure what to expect. The idea of fresh eggs was certainly appealing and we love birds, but these were different than the parrots we have inside. To our surprise they have turned out to be the funniest pets we have. From their clucking to their antics (a chicken dust bath is the funniest, weirdest thing to watch, see the video below) we could watch them roam our backyard for hours. Our daughter, now three, is all about our chickens too. She loves to follow them around talking to them and hugging them (they are shockingly tolerant of her!).

This spring we decided to add to our flock and bought day-old chicks. They were the most adorable, tiny balls of fluff. Our whole family was enchanted. Watching them grow has been an incredible experience for our daughter who is alway full of questions about them. Chickens don’t seem like they would make great pets, but they are surprisingly charming. Any children that visit our house are thrilled to go out and watch our girls and pet the babies. It’s a great opportunity to talk about how a the tiny babies hatch from eggs and eventually become the large hens in our yard- it’s an early science experience at it’s best. And who doesn’t love a fluffy little chick?


Book

Fiction

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County written by Janice N. Harrington and illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Meet one smart chicken chaser. She can catch any chicken on her grandmother's farm except one – the elusive Miss Hen. In a hilarious battle of wits, the spirited narrator regales readers with her campaign to catch Miss Hen, but this chicken is "fast as a mosquito buzzing and quick as a fleabite." Our chicken chaser has her mind set on winning, until she discovers that sometimes it's just as satisfying not to catch chickens as it is to catch them. (Amazon)

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Henny Penny written and illustrated by Paul Galdone

Henny Penny is hit on the head with an acorn and thinks the sky is falling. She heads off to tell the king meeting several other friends along the way who decide to join her. The group finally meets Foxy Loxy who leads them into his cave where they are never seen again. The repetition in the text is excellent for younger readers who will quickly learn what line comes next. Galdone’s illustrations are charming and while the ending may seem dark, the final page adds a touch of humor with a den full of fox kits licking their lips. A classic tale warning against blindly following tricksters.

Tilly Lays an Egg written by Terry Golson, photographs by Ben Fink 

A funny book about a contrary chicken. Tilly will not lay an egg in the nesting box like all the other hens on Little Pond Farm. She is too busy looking for worms and exploring the different places on the farm. Each day she lays her egg somewhere new. An easy seek-and-find book for young children starring seven real chickens from the author’s yard.

Rosie’s Walk written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins

Another classic children’s book. Rosie leaves her cozy coop to take a stroll around the barnyard. Unbeknownst to her a fox is following along. As she visits different places, the pond, the mill, the beehives, the fox runs into trouble each time as he tries to pounce on Rosie. After a nice walk, Rosie returns to her coop just in time for supper while the fox is chased off by some very unhappy bees. This book with it’s simple text has children practice their prepositions- around, under, etc. and it’s very funny.

Hattie and the Fox written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Patricia Mullins

Hattie, a black hen, sees something in the bushes. As more and more of the something appears she tries to get the attention of the other farm animals. Too bad they all seem unconcerned. When Hattie finally realizes it is a fox peeking out she startles, frightening all the other animals who scare off the fox. The humor is perfect for the younger crowd, especially with Hattie’s fright when the fox materializes out of the bushes.

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The Little Red Hen written and illustrated by Paul Galdone

The classic story encouraging helpfulness. The Little Red Hen lives in a house with a dog, a cat, and a rat. When it’s time to do chores only the Little Red Hen is willing to do the work. When she finds some wheat, which she grows and has ground into flour, she decides to bake a cake. Of course everyone is willing to help her eat it! But since she was the only one to do the work the Little Red Hen decides to eat it all herself. A chagrined dog, cat and mouse are much more willing to help after that. Again, Galdone has whimsical and sweet illustrations with lots of details to pore over. There are of course many other retellings of this story available. Jerry Pinkney’s is also worth looking for.

Peggy written and illustrated by Anna Walker

Every day Peggy, a backyard chicken, does the same thing. She eats her breakfast, plays and watches the pigeons. One windy day, though, she is whisked away to the city. Peggy experiences all sorts of new things like escalators and underwear and movie theaters, but she eventually tires of this and wants to go home. The problem is she isn’t quite sure how to do that. Following a bouquet of sunflowers, a flower that grows in her garden, she hops the train and finds herself back out in the suburbs. Again she isn’t sure how to get home, but the pigeons are there to help! A sweet story about a homebody trying new adventures.

Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella written and illustrated by Jan Brett

The classic tale retold in the chicken coop. Cinders is small chicken pushed around by the other hens in the henhouse. One night during a blizzard an invitation arrives for a ball hosted by Prince Cockerel. The tale will be familiar, but Brett’s incredible illustrations and the unique cast of characters make this book anything but another retelling.

The Golden Egg Book written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard 

A little bunny finds an egg and wonders what’s inside. He imagines all sorts of animals from a human to an elephant. Finally his curiosity get the best of him and he tries to crack the egg. But while the book is silly, it also is very profound. Brown was especially good at capturing the wonders and fears of children. Here she touches on the desire to find a friend to face the big wide world with, turning a simple story into a beautiful commentary on the importance of friendship. Weisgard’s illustrations are beautiful and detailed, much like Jan Brett’s, and really invite a closer look. The book was originally illustrated by another illustrator and are charming, but not as beautiful as Weisgard’s.

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Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken written by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss

A picture book in four chapters. Louise, a white hen, wants adventure. So she heads out to find one. Each chapter covers a new adventure, first a pirate ship, then a circus and finally captured by a tall, dark stranger. After returning home from her adventures Louise shares her stories with the other hens. Louise is both charming and silly and her adventures are a lot fun and suspenseful.  

 

 

Nonfiction

The Chicken or the Egg (Rookie Read-About Science) by Allan Fowler

A basic science book about chickens. It talks about how chickens evolved, how they are raised, and about egg laying. There is some discussion of vocabulary naming the male, female, and baby chickens as well as their sounds. It also touches on egg development. These books are a great starting place for learning about science concepts.

Chicken and Egg (Stopwatch Books) by Christine Back and Jens Olesen, photographs by Bo Jarner

Sadly this series is out of print, but if you can find it in your library it is well worth it. The book follows the development of a chick in an egg. Each two page spread features a bold sentence at the top that summarizes the content under it. If you are interested you can delve deeper by reading the additional, more detailed information. This is wonderful for appealing to younger audiences (read just the bold sentences) and on days when you need a shorter read. The text is pitch perfect, explaining complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms. The opposite page has the most amazing photographs that allow you to literally peer inside the egg while it develops. Children find this fascinating, seeing a world that is usually hidden, but squeamish parents be forewarned, these are real photographs. An incredible look at how a chick grows inside an egg. Bonus, the final picture features an adorable fluffy yellow chick.

Chickens and Chicks written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons

An excellent introduction to chickens. Gibbons covers the life of a chicken (from dust baths to making nests), egg development, how a chicken lays an egg, and chicken farming all accompanied by her charming illustrations. She also introduces readers to some chicken vocabulary like the parts of a chicken and egg, free-range, breed and pullet. The book answers many common questions children (and adults) might have about keeping and raising chickens too, such as whether there has to be rooster present to lay an egg and how often they lay eggs. The final page features fun, quick tidbits about chickens (the heaviest ever recorded was 22 pounds!).

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Chickens on the Family Farm by Chana Stiefel

This book shows what life is like on a small family-run chicken farm. It is worth reading just for the beautiful pictures of the hens and the multi-colored eggs (did you know some chickens lay green, blue, or pink eggs?). Predators, breeds, and food are all covered by this book. Simple, large text is great for reading aloud to young readers.  

Chicks! (Step Into Reading: Step 1) written by Sandra Horning, illustrated by Jon Goodell

A cute beginning reader about raising chickens at home. A pair of children visit a farm to pick up three new chicks. Over the months they watch them grow until they are laying eggs. This would be perfect for new readers who are interested in learning about chickens. The sweet illustrations also make it a good read aloud to younger children.

The Egg (First Discovery Book) created by Pascale de Bourgoing and Gallimard Jeunesse, illustrated by Rene Mettler

The Egg focuses primarily on a hen’s egg, following it through the various stages of development. The best part about this book (and the whole First Discovery Series) are the clever transparent pages throughout that allow the reader to look inside, under, or change the scene with a flip of the page. The end of the book features some other eggs and other egg-laying animals.

An Egg Is Quiet written by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long 

Not strictly about chickens, An Egg Is Quiet takes an interesting and more literary approach to a science concept. Using adjectives to describe an egg and start a discussion about different aspects of eggs, such as colorful and shapely, to jump into egg form, size, and color, the book explores who lays eggs (past and present), egg characteristics and the development that takes place inside. Like the Stopwatch book, this book has a single sentence on each page in large print followed by further information which you can read all of, some of, or none of making it a book that can grow with your child. The illustrations in this are absolutely stunning and be sure not to miss the end papers which show eggs at the beginning and the animals they hatch into at the end.


Media

Chicken Breeds List: Show Poultry

A list of show chicken breeds, click a name and scroll down for pictures and videos of the breed. You might be surprised at the variety in types of chickens, the American Poultry Association recognizes upwards of 100 breeds. Show poultry are often quite fancy and beautiful and they are fun to look at.

  • Tip: Be sure to check out the Polish. They have amazing “hair” even as chicks!

 

Chicken Breeds List: Laying Chickens

From the same site as above, this is a different list from the show poultry. Chickens are raised for three purposes: showing, laying, and meat. There is certainly some overlap in them, but there are some breeds of laying hens that are not shown. Again there is a list which you can click on to see more information, pictures and videos. The site is full of interesting and good information about all the different breeds and if you have a chicken fancier in your family this may be an especially interesting site.  

  • Tip: Many of the breeds have pictures of the adults and the chicks.

 

Peg + Cat Chicken Dance

These baby chicks want to dance, but sometimes they forget what the next step is. Help them boogie down by following the pattern and selecting the right dance move. A funny little game to practice following a pattern.

  • Tip: Don’t forget to dance along with the chicks!

 

Baby Chicks Hatching

A sped up video of two chicks emerging from an egg. You can watch as they peck around the shell and are finally able to push their way out. The video also shows that they are not dry when they emerge.

  • Tip: Compare this to the books you have read about eggs hatching- it can be difficult to get a sense of what it is truly like to hatch from an egg. Is it surprising how the egg moves around? This is a shortened version of the hatching process, but is it surprising how long it takes for the chick to actually get out of the egg?

 

Watch a Chicken Take a Dust Bath

One of the ways chickens keep themselves clean and pest free is by taking a dust bath. They dig down into the dirt then roll around, kicking dirt onto their feathers while they shake. The dirt helps remove parasites, extra moisture, and extra oil from their skin and feathers. A dust bath is also one of the most ridiculous and funny things to watch and those holes they dig can get awfully deep! We fondly call them chicken craters. This video gives you a sense of how silly a chicken looks while dust bathing.


Apps

Below is a mix of chicken themed and related apps and ebooks.

Chicken Run: Moon Kiss

Overview: A sweet bedtime ebook about Jiao Jiao the little chick who wants to kiss the moon.

Inside Scoop: Jiao Jiao, a baby chick, loves falling asleep with the light of the moon on his face and wants to talk to the moon. One morning he sets out to do just that. Along the way he meets several new friends who want to join them. At dusk they reach a tall hill. Will it be tall enough for Jiao Jiao to reach up and kiss the moon or will his friends have to help? A sweet bedtime story celebrating the moon. The illustrations are adorable and the animation, although basic, adds to the charm of the book and makes it more than just a scan of a paper book. Once you hit play the story reads aloud to you in either English or Chinese and runs through the pages without needing to turn the page. Sleep-mode allows the story to be read with the gentle background music while the screen is off- perfect for families that may want to have the story but do not want screens at bedtime. If you like Jiao Jiao, there are many more books available about his life on the farm. Even better, the app is free.


The Little Red Hen: Cards Match

Overview: A very basic memory game featuring the characters from the story of the little red hen.

Inside Scoop: Perfect for a few minutes of practicing matching and memory skills. This is simply a memory game. Open the app and the cards appear on screen face down. Begin clicking them to flip them over and try to match up the pairs. Characters include the cat, the dog, a turkey, and more. This app is free, but there is the option to upgrade to a story book and jigsaw puzzle for $1.99. 


Nighty Night!

Overview: Another fun interactive bedtime story. Put all the animals on the farm to sleep.

Inside Scoop: The animals are all still awake on the farm. Click on a room or area with a light on and help the animals turn their lights off and go to sleep. Well worth the $2.99, the animation is lovely, the animals are funny, the narration is well done, and it’s a lot of fun to click on the animals to make them move and make noise. Not strictly about chickens, but there is a mama hen and two baby chicks that need help falling asleep. Touching the hen will make her lay an egg and ruffle her feathers. In-app purchases can add a few animals, but is not necessary. After putting everyone to bed the book encourages children to turn out their own lights and go to bed.


Pocket Egg Race

Overview: A board game for the iPad, help the baby chicks get home.

Inside Scoop: Help the chicks get home. The first screen has you choose an egg for each player which you then help hatch. Give it a name and hat and you are set to play the game. With one player you move from flower square to flower square doing the challenges. With more than one player you use the spinner to move through the board. This would make a great family game night choice as younger players may need some help with a few of the challenges. A lot of fun even as a single player. If you stop the game in the middle you can return to it. The app costs $1.99.


Activities

Science Experiment

Source: Instructables

Source: Instructables

Why This Activity

There’s a lot going on in this experiment. You can talk about acids and how the vinegar is dissolving the shell of the egg. You can also talk about the parts of the egg and how once the shell is removed, the outer membrane is revealed. Once the shell is off you can have some fun poking and prodding the rubbery egg and then try bouncing it. Try making a prediction of how high a fall the egg can survive. Be forewarned, the egg has to sit for at least 24 hours.

What You’ll Need

  • an egg (raw)

  • a glass or plastic cup or bowl

  • white vinegar

What To Do

  • Place the egg in the cup.

  • Pour the vinegar over it so it is submerged. Do you see all the bubbles forming around it?

  • Let the egg sit for 24 hours.

  • Remove from the cup and gently rinse if you would like. Try poking, prodding, holding, and squishing the naked egg. You might also want to shine a light into it or place it on a light table if you have one.

  • For young scientists try using the think-see-wonder method. Before the experiment have them make a prediction about what they think might happen based on what they might know about vinegar and based on the name of the experiment. While the egg shell is dissolving have them record something they see and do this again once the shell is completely gone. Finally have them come up with something they wonder about, like how high of a fall it can survive.

Adapted from: “The Naked Egg: Make an ordinary egg wobbly, bouncey, and squishy with the scientific method!” on Instructables

 

Family Activity: Egg Drop

Why This Activity

The purpose of the activity is to create a housing around an egg that will keep it from cracking when dropped from a certain height. This is a great introduction to engineering and to physics even if you don’t get into the technicalities of force and structure. It can also be as big an event or as little of one as you want. Invite friends over to join in or work on it with just your child. It would even make a great birthday party activity.

What You’ll Need

  • miscellaneous & recycled materials: bubble wrap, packing peanuts, boxes/cardboard, fabric scraps or rags, etc.

  • tape (blue, masking or duct)

  • hard boiled eggs or raw ones if you’re feeling confident

  • ladder

  • tarp (optional)

What To Do

  • Working either together, in teams or separately design a housing that will protect an egg from breaking during a fall. This can include layers of bubble wrap, a straw structure that suspends the egg in the center, whatever you can dream up.

  • Place the egg inside, take to the top of the ladder (or even off a balcony or jungle gym at the park) and drop it. Look out below!

  • After the drop see if the egg survived without a crack.

  • The tarp can be placed on the ground to keep the mess (flying parts and splattered egg) contained.

    

Egg Dyeing with Natural Dyes

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Why This Activity

This is a science experiment, craft and snack all rolled into one. By playing around with foods and spices in your kitchen it’s interesting to see what colors you can produce. While dyed eggs are often associated with Easter it certainly doesn’t have to be. These make a great snack for lunch boxes year round and you can match the colors of the eggs to the season.

What You’ll Need

  • Red: Cut up beet

  • Orange: several skins from yellow onions

  • Yellow: 2 tablespoons turmeric (powdered)

  • Green: red onion skins

  • Blue: ¼ head red cabbage or 1 cup frozen blueberries brought to room temperature in 1 cup water

  • Purple: grape juice (this does not need to be boiled, simply add the vinegar)

  • Brown: strongly brewed coffee

  • hard boiled eggs (white eggs work best for dyeing)

  • crayons (especially white)

What To Do

  • Each item will need to be separately be placed into 2 cups boiling water for about 15 minutes to create the dye. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to the water after boiling (this will help the color penetrate the shell better). Strain the vegetables out and allow the water to cool before placing the eggs into the dye.

  • While the water cools you may want to draw patterns, pictures or designs on the shells of the eggs using the crayons. When dipped in the dye the wax on the crayons will not allow the dye to penetrate the shell and the design will be revealed. This is especially fun with white when the design seems to magically appear once the shell is dyed.

  • Once the dye is coo,l place it in small bowls and dip the eggs in. Allow them to sit and soak for a minute or so until they are as deeply colored as you would like. If they don’t submerge entirely you may want to turn them and/or spoon dye over the top to dye the shell evenly.

  • Feel free to experiment around with other fruits, vegetables, and spices in your kitchen to create dyes. You may be surprised by the colors they produce, like the red onion skins making a green dye.

  • For a spider web-like effect (particularly fun around Halloween) gently crack the shell (but don’t remove it) before placing it in the dye.

Adapted from: “All-Natural Easter Egg Dye Recipes” on Better Homes and Gardens


Clucking Chicken Cup

Why This Activity

Besides being a silly chicken craft, this project is a science experiment with sound. The vibrations of the string are amplified by the cup much like a guitar amplifies the sound of its strings.

What You’ll Need

  • plastic cup

  • string

  • small piece of sponge

  • feathers, construction paper, wiggle eyes, markers

What To Do

  • Decorate your cup to look like a chicken.

  • Poke a hole in the top of the cup and cut a length of string that will trail out of the cup.

  • Thread the string through the hole and tie a knot at the top so it can’t pull through the hole.

  • Wet the sponge (or use damp fingers). Hold the cup with one hand and, while squeezing, tug the sponge down the length of string outside the cup. It should make a squawking, clucking sound. If it isn’t working be sure the sponge is wet and you are squeezing the string as you pull and tug. Also be sure to pull in jerky movements instead of one smooth pull as this will produce a sound like a chicken.

    

Eggshell Seed Starters

Why This Activity

If you don’t compost them, this is a great way to reuse the egg shells from your breakfast scramble. They also look charming with seedlings popping out of them.

What You’ll Need

  • empty egg shells (rinsed)

  • egg carton

  • seeds for starting inside (beans work well)

  • seed starter soil or potting mix

  • spoon

  • spray bottle

What To Do

  • The egg shells should be cracked so their tops are removed but the sides are mostly intact. Place them in the egg carton with the cracked side up.

  • Put a small spoonful of the soil into the bottom of the eggshell, but don’t fill all the way.

  • Place a seed in each shell and spoon more dirt over the top to cover to the correct depth (your seed packet will tell you how deep, but most seeds need to be covered to twice the depth of their size).

  • Spritz the shells with water using the spray bottle. They will need to be watered and kept damp so that the seeds will germinate. A spray bottle works best for keeping them moist, but not sopping.

  • Place the carton in a warm sunny spot (windowsills work well) to provide them with warmth and light.

  • When the seedlings have emerged and are ready to be moved into the garden, crack the bottom of the shell to allow the roots to push out and plant directly into the ground, spacing them per the seed packet instructions.


About Tibby W.

Tibby, a curator from the Bay Area, was born to love books.  Seriously.  Her parents named her after a nickname from a children’s book!  Anyone remember the Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books? There you have it.  Even stranger, Tibby’s best friend from high school is the granddaughter of the illustrator of the series.  Now, that is someone almost born with a book in her hand!  Tibby is a former teacher and children’s librarian, currently staying home to spend time with her little one. She is a dynamic member of our curator community, and we’re thrilled to have her!

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