As we have started into this lifestyle we thought long and hard at why we wanted to live on a farm and work hard every day to get basic things like eggs. Where for the most part for less expense and a lot less effort we could just buy a dozen or two at the grocery store when we needed them. Why choose to work so hard for the same thing?
In addition to the fact that we believe that eggs raised from chickens able to roam and forage for food were healthier, we wanted to be able to provide for our family with as little outside involvement as possible, and farm fresh eggs just taste so stinking much better, we saw an opportunity for our kids to learn a new skill in the process.
Now chickens and ducks are somewhat easy. They need a secure place to live, food to eat, and fresh water to drink. Clean the coop every blue moon if you are doing it right, and collect the bounty of eggs that they supply on the daily.
This is one of the "easy" responsibilities that we could give to our youngest Alex. He started really taking the lead in caring for the chickens and collecting the eggs last year at 7 years old.
He is in charge of letting the chickens out of the coop in the morning. Filling the trough with water, making sure they had enough food, and collecting the eggs to bring inside. We discussed with him what he would be responsible for and what he would get in return.
The way it worked out for us is that in return for his work daily and eggs that we needed for our family, he would be able to sell any of the remaining eggs and keep the profits himself. Currently we have 12 laying hens and 2 ducks that lay as well. Generally we use 6 eggs on average a day for our family of six meaning he would have 8 eggs a day that he would be able to save to sell. 8x7=56 eggs a week to sell. For ease and factoring in the fact that eggs get dropped or cracked or never make it to the house we are going to assume that he gets 4 dozen eggs a week that he can sell.
We generally charge 2$ a dozen eggs so that would put him at $8 a week or about $32 a month in exchange for caring for the chickens. He does not have to pay for food, water, or any supplies they need. He simply puts in the work to care for the chickens and sell the eggs. He was more than happy to jump at the opportunity to earn more money for treats, legos, and all things that a 7 year old boy could want!
Now, not all things go as smoothly as we would like and he has learned some valuable lessons along the way. One night recently he decided that some of the chickens were too hard to put away securely in the coop, so he left them out for the night. I was sleeping with our window cracked open because the weather was nice and cool and the fresh air was so nice.
About one o'clock in the morning, I hear a squawk and then a minute later another one. It woke me up and when I went to investigate I found two dead hens, spotted a fox, and at least 5 other chickens that hadn't been put away for the night when they were supposed to have been. I quickly got the rest of the chickens securely in the coop and ran to let our LGD Pearl into the field to help deter predators from coming back and trying to get into the coop.
Needless to say in the morning he was a sad little boy and he had to help me dispose of the two hens that had been killed. It was a very valuable lesson for him to learn, that what he does or doesn't do can have a real impact on the animals and people he cares for.
We like to say that we would rather they mess up small when they are young and learn their lessons with much smaller consequences rather than mess up big when they are older and the consequences are much larger. We don't save them from all the consequences of the mistakes they make, but we do support them and help them learn the lessons to be had.
Each child has a specific thing that they are in charge of caring for on the farm. They reap the rewards for their hard work, and suffer the failures. We are there to support them through it all, good and bad.
What kind of responsibilities do you give your children? Have you noticed growth in them since they have taken things on? What challenges have you run into? Id love to know more about your successes and failures!!
I know I am always surprised at just how much my kids crave being a part of something that benefits everyone in the family. I couldn't be prouder of my four "crazies" and love them endlessly! Here's to learning life's lessons.