Keeping chickens in school

Resource: Case study

Disraeli School and Children’s Centre's new chicken's Sam and Ella have quickly become valuable members of the school community.

Sam and Ella have been important in many different areas of children’s learning but very noticeably in working with children on their own personal emotional and social development. They play a vital part in the mentoring process where key workers will use them as a starting point for conversation. They are also effective as a reward system for children having difficulties with their behaviour.

"In a society where everything comes in ready made boxes it’s great for children to see where their food actually comes from, in nature’s finest form".
Ben Keegan, FS2 teacher

Here are two specific examples of how the chickens have helped with some areas of children’s personal development.

  • One child in Year 5 was very scared of animals and especially birds. Having contact with the chickens, alongside an adult that she has built up a trusting relationship with, she has now become more confident around animals and actually enjoys being around the chickens.
  • One of the two-year olds that regularly attend the children’s centre has delayed speech. He does not speak at all to adults or children other than in his own home. However, he has been visiting the chickens regularly during sessions and will now chatter away to the chickens confidently!

Ella and Sam have only been with them for a few months now but Disraeli School have begun to see a real impact on children’s learning, behaviour and emotional well-being. They are an exciting tool for teachers to use in making their lessons real for the children and in bringing the school community together.

Miss Paula O’Shea Extended Schools Manager says, “They are part of the school family now”.

How did you decide you wanted chickens?

We decided that we wanted chickens so that we could give the children the opportunity to see some live animals in school. We had also identified it in our Gardening Action Group (as part of the Food for Life Partnership) action plan from consultation with parents, staff and children. We wanted them to learn how to care for an animal and to learn where their food comes from. We got our chickens from Omlet Uk in October 2009.

Where have you put the chickens?
The chickens live in an 'eglu' in the grassy courtyard at school. They are free to roam around outside of their eglu most of the dEglu chicken houseay. They have grass to peck at and food and water in their eglu.

How are you funding them?

The School parents Association paid for the eglu, chickens and their food as they felt all the children would gain from it.

Who looks after them?

Our Extended Schools Manager oversees the care of the chickens but many members of our school community also regularly help too! Pam Wheeler (a school cleaner) spends time with them every afternoon and gives them the odd treat. The children in After School Club feed them every day and one boy in particular (SNAG member) cleans the bedding out once or twice a week, putting the old bedding (shredded paper) in our compost bin. Caretakers Tina and Bill come in on Saturdays to feed them and give them a treat. Children from all year groups volunteer to help every day.

Miss Ruchi Ghosh, Learning Support Assistant says, "I was at first worried about them because I wasn’t sure how the children would interact with them. But the chickens are so happy and it’s great to see the children getting excited about the eggs"

What happens in the holidays?

The staff and families in the Children’s Centre help to take care of them at weekends and holidays when the school is closed.

Are the eggs used?

Yes! Children who have volunteered to help with caring for the chickens are rewarded with eggs and dedicated helpers also take eggs home regularly. Year 3 have used eggs in their cooking in Numeracy lessons (weighing ingredients to make cakes). Cookery club regularly use our chicken’s eggs when eggs are required in their recipes. Breakfast club and After School Club also use them. In this term’s Disraeli Food For Life newslettElla the chickener we have run a chicken crossword competition where a box of eggs from Sam and Ella are the prize! Pupil Nitharshan, aged 8 comments, "We made cakes in Numeracy with the eggs and they were delicious".

Are they used as a teaching resource?

The chickens are well used as a teaching resource. Foundation Stage 2 often go out to see the chickens as they learn about the world around them, living and growing and care and respect. Louise Cashmore FS2 teacher thinks that the chickens give children the "opportunity to learn respect for other living things"

Miles, aged 7 adds, "The chickens are cute. I learnt that when the chicken’s comb is red it means it is healthy and when it is orange it means the chicken is sick."

Year 3 have recently written reports about chickens for their non-fiction unit in Literacy where they researched chickens and observed Sam and Ella.

The Food for Life Partnership is a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. Together we are revolutionising school meals, reconnecting children and young people with where their food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food.

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