Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook about a child who had just gotten a website up and running for his small, local business selling hatching eggs and chicks. I was fascinated! I have children of my own, and we have also been on the journey of starting small business endeavors within their capabilities. I spoke with the parents of this young entrepreneur, and they agreed to let him do an interview with me and find out how other kids with a flock are learning and benefiting from keeping chickens.
So, without further ado, let me introduce Pete, owner of Pete's (adjective) Poultry. (That name is not a typo; it's actually named that so you can insert your own adjective, like "Pete's Pretty Poultry" or "Pete's Wicked-cool Poultry.")
Me: Pete, how old are you? And how old were you when you got your first chicken?
Pete: I am eight and a half years old. I'm guessing seven (when he got his first chicken). Pete's Mom; He was 3 when we got our first chickens, but I don't think he really considered those his own. He started doing the 4-H poultry curriculum and raising his own chickens last year.
Me: Pete, what is your favorite breed of chicken?
Pete: The ones with the puffy cheeks. Those are my Easter Eggers.
Me: Do you name all of your chickens?
Pete: Yes, most of them.
Me: What things do you do to take care of your chickens?
Pete: I feed them, pet them, water them, and give them flight practice. That's when I put them on the top of the chicken coop and they get to hop off and fly away.
Me: That is an interesting way to exercise your birds! Pete, tell me; why did you decide to start a chicken business, and what have you learned from selling eggs and hatching ducks?
Pete: I started my business because I wanted to save money and because I like chickens and ducks. I have learned patience. It’s sort of hard (to hatch them and care for them), but fun. We get a flashlight out every week and we candle them to see if they are growing. It’s really exciting to watch them hatch. You wait a few weeks and then you have a chick and it’s really cute. They are not too hard to take care of. I feed them, water them, pet them. From selling, I’ve learned that it takes time to find customers. I check my email a lot. I tell people I’ll have eggs for them in a jiffy. I’m always excited about new customers.
Me: I see you have a very nice website; what did you learn about while making it?
Pete: It was fun creating it. I love it a lot. It’s a great website. My mom helped me make it and my dad was very happy when he saw it. I picked out pictures and wrote the content for the site because I wanted people to know who they were buying eggs from.
Me: What do you plan to do with the money you earn from selling eggs and chicks? Also, what do your friends think of your business and chickens?
Pete: Buy more chicken food. Also there are some things I need, like new scooter sparks because the scooter I got for Christmas ran out. Also I really want a touch-screen Windows 8 laptop with the flip back screen. I have to save $400. My mom wants me to use it for school, but I’m also going to use it for my chicken business and maybe I’ll put a game on it. My best friend Nathan said it is totally awesome (Pete having a business). He likes the hatching calendar. His brother Joel said I should sell food too. I already sell eggs but maybe he means chickens to eat.
Me: Do you and your chickens help others in a special way?
Pete: I really want to help injured and lost dogs and cats that need homes. I want to donate some money to the ASPCA.
Me: That is a great goal, Pete! Can you tell me a story that has happened about you and your chickens?
Pete: My favorite chicken is Sprinkles. She has two puffy cheeks that almost cover her eyes. She’s soft and friendly. She let’s my sister and me pick her up. One time, when I was littler, my sister and I took two pieces of wood and stood her on them like skis. Then we sent her down the slide on our play fort. She stayed on her skis and just hopped off at the bottom. I think she liked it. We didn’t tell our mom.
Me: Thank you, Pete, it is wonderful hearing about your business!
I spoke with Pete's parents as well, to get a little of their perspective on helping a young child run a small business. Here is what Pete's Mom had to say;
Me: How much help does Pete require with his chickens and business?
Pete's Mom: Peter is very capable and responsible for his age. When the weather is nice, he loves to help with his chickens. He feeds them and waters them almost every day. He definitely spends a lot of time playing with them and observing them. He loves to swing on our swing set and sometimes he even takes one of his hens along for a ride. They don’t seem to mind! Lately it has been cold and wet. We have made a point of explaining to him that just because it is uncomfortable outside that doesn’t mean he can skip a day of feeding or watering his chickens. We tell him that when you commit to the care of an animal it is an every day thing. Rain, snow, or sun. He gets it, but there have been a few days where I did his chores for him because it was so cold and windy out!
Me: Why did you decide to let Pete start a business, and how does it affect your family?
Pete's Mom: I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I have several of my own small businesses and it occurred to me that creating a business could be a great lesson for my children (who I homeschool). We made it part of our school work. I asked them to come up with ideas for what they wanted to do and then helped them to create a business plan and actually bring it to fruition. Peter’s sister, who is 14 months younger, raises rabbits. I actually cannot think of a better or more holistic educational experience. Through this experience, Peter has not only learned about animal care and husbandry, but the business side of it involves math, writing, reading, social skills, and of course the cultivation of a good work ethic.
Our entire family is involved in the running of our micro-farm. We all have our specialties, but we do help each other out. Peter’s focus is our poultry, his younger sister takes care of our rabbits, I work with the dairy goats, and my husband has the green thumb, so he thrives in the vegetable garden. We have two little ones that are only 3 and 1, but they enjoy helping in the garden as well and watching their big brother and sister work with the animals. Especially if we have baby chicks indoors in the brooder; they love that!
Me: That is great! Would you encourage other families to help their children start small, local businesses in agriculture?
Pete's Mom: Absolutely. If you’re interested in homesteading or already raising animals, vegetables, herbs, etc. on your property and you have an opportunity to involve your children in the work, I think it is a great thing. They are getting involved in the community and also learning the value of hard work and how to be responsible with money. Peter is also learning to evaluate the cost of raising his animals against his revenue and the difference between revenue and profit. He has to put part of his earnings back towards food and care for his flock. We are trying to learn about permaculture and sustainability and we raise our animals as organically and holistically as possible. I know we’re passing that on the the kids and whether they eventually are involved in agriculture in a bigger way someday or not, I know they will carry those values - sustainability, self-sufficiency, community, working within the rhythms of the seasons and in partnership with nature - into their adult lives.
Here's what we can take away from this intriguing interview: running a small business with your kids can be a great way to develop life-long skills and instill a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment in our children. Here are 5 things you can do with your children and your flock too!
5 Projects For Kids With a Flock!
- Start an informative website or blog: There are many free options available online for having a website or blog where your children can learn basic computer skills, writing, and looking for information. A simple web-search for "free blogging" or "free web-hosting" will bring up enough options to suit any skill level. Please remember that you need to be involved with your child in this project; the internet is a great place to learn, but for safety you need to supervise children on it and whom they interact with!
- Put up a sign in your yard: Set up a Farm-Fresh Egg sign and sell eggs to your neighbors. Your children will learn the importance of marketing and pleasing customers, as well as earning a little money that they have to manage. Be sure to check your local and state regulations as some municipalities do not approve of sales from the home, particularly of food goods. Your local zoning office can tell you if you need a permit.
- Create crafts from your chickens to sell at local craft fairs: This is a great option for artistic children! Blown out egg shells can be decorated and sold as ornaments, feathers made into fishing lures, hair decorations can be fashioned from found feathers; just look around the internet (great research project for the older child) for ideas.
- Teach others: The best way to learn is to teach! Allowing your child to give presentations at local events gives them the opportunity to practice public speaking and problem solve as they answer questions from their audience. They have the opportunity to make posters, flyers, informational booklets, anything they can think of to aid them in teaching. Not only is this great for them, it is a service to the community and encourages others to learn about these wonderful birds!
- Participate in 4-H: 4-H is a great way to see how the agricultural system works. This is a perfect option for those that don't know where to start with helping their kids learn about business, public speaking, and management of livestock. The program turns out youth that can problem solve, understand economics, and participate in team settings. You don't have to know anything when you start out, just look up your local chapter and sign up!
As thanks and encouragement, My Pet Chicken is providing a free copy of the My Pet Chicken Handbook, and our friend Melissa Caughey of Tilly's Nest is providing a free copy of her lovely new book A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens. We wish you the best, Pete!