Yesterday I took Betsy, one of my Bantam White Leghorns, to a preschool. I read Tillie Lays an Egg to two classrooms of three-year olds. I don’t know if sitting politely in chairs is their normal behavior, or whether the sight of a chicken had them transfixed and immobilized, but they were very well behaved children! At the end of the program, each child got to pet Betsy. The kids (and the teachers) were beaming. It’s always a thrill to see that connection.
A Bantam Leghorn is the perfect chicken to introduce poultry to small children. Large hens are often quite scary to them, but here’s nothing frightening about a little white bird sitting in the palm of my hand. The children relate to the smallness of the animal – it’s just like them! After having read so many noisy rooster books (what child doesn’t know how to cock-a-doodle-doo?) they are relieved that the chicken in their classroom is quiet.
I find the Bantam Leghorns particularly well-suited to school visits. My leghorns don’t mind being removed from the flock, traveling in the car, and being in new places. They are outgoing, curious, individual birds. I’d never be able to do this with my Australorps who can’t bear to be far from their coop and friends. I joke that if Coco (my Leghorn) could be reincarnated, she’d come back as one of those tiny dogs carried around in a purse in Beverly Hills. She’d love that!
Other bantams breeds are also wonderful for small children. Silkies, in particular, are placid and sweet. (But they do need extra warmth and care in the winter!)
When choosing which chicken breed(s) to get, people first look at their ornamental value. You can get chickens speckled, striped, glossy black or pure white. They have black legs, yellow legs, white legs. Their combs can be flat or spiked, or not there at all. Chickens can have big poufs of feathers on their heads, or have naked necks.
You can also select hens by the color of egg they lay. I like to keep a blue-egg laying breed in my flock, just to have that egg in the carton.
But once people get chickens, what they notice is their temperaments. I’ve heard, “I don’t like Americanas, they’re too aloof,” and “I love my Orpingtons, such gentle birds!” My own personal favorites are the basic big brown layers. I like how they go about their day. They’re good, solid citizens of the barnyard.
Sometimes you fall in love with a breed by sheer happenstance. One day, Hope Sandrow found a Paduan rooster while on a walk near her home. Eventually, she moved him into a coop in her backyard. Hope fell in love with this breed and got more Paduans. Hope is an artist; she has work in major museums. I don’t know if a big brown hen would have become her muse, but that Paduan rooster has changed her life. Even her coop has become an art installation.
Has there been a special chicken that changed your life?