It’s common in our modern culture to mis-value children; we often see them as liabilities instead of assets. Homesteaders know better! Not only do children provide endless fascination and energy for the homestead family, but they are also valued members of the homestead team. Still, it can be hard to always know which chores can be best to assign to children on the homestead. Working with animals can be particularly tricky! Here are our most common livestock chores for children on our homestead.
The best way for our homestead kids to learn and value this lifestyle is for them to be at our side in everything we do. They don’t have to love it all, they just need to know the basics of how to do it all.
More than anything, our children need to know that they’re valued members of our family team. We needn’t worry too much if the tasks aren’t accomplished exactly the way we would accomplish them. The important thing is that our children share in these experiences with us.
These are the times when we very naturally communicate our love and respect for nature. Our children will pick up on that and it will become an easy part of our family culture—something that will carry on into our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s lives.
Homestead Livestock Chores for Children
These livestock chores for children are in no particular order because everything is equally important.
- When I say younger children, I mean any age from toddler to about eight years old. Never leave this age range of children unattended when doing livestock chores. This is both for their safety and the safety of the livestock.
- The label older children generally means age nine and up. However, this is completely relative to your family. I have a nine-year-old whom I could trust to run my entire house, including meal preparation, child care, and cleaning. Yet I sometimes worry that the oldest will set the house on fire with one of her experiments. What’s your family like?
Each animal has very specific needs so, understand that these ideas are meant to simply inspire you to come up with your own plans. So, too, does every child have their own capacities and interests.
When it comes to having my children work on the homestead, I’m guilty far too often of underestimating them; they really are so capable, and they want to help. Another thing to keep in mind is that, when children are young, you will work harder to train them to help.
Does it Take More Time to Have Kids do the Chores?
Of course it does! If you chose to do the chores yourself, you would most likely get them done quicker, especially when your children are young. However, not everything is about speed.
You’re not really raising homestead kids – you’re raising homestead adults. Being a responsible adult requires training and time.
Take the time to train them now – do it really well – and you won’t have to work as hard in coming years. You will have trained homestead teenagers, who then go on to become responsible, capable homestead adults.
It’s like a mathematical equation and you can’t skip the first steps!
A Safety Note:
For young children, who are too small to be around even medium sized livestock alone, you’ll need to tote water buckets for them and place feed dishes. Make these accessible without the child entering the animal’s pen.
A goat head-butt can be a dangerous thing for a small person, so be smart about your expectations! Set up animal housekeeping so that even young children can successfully participate.
Livestock Chores for Younger Children
I reiterate that young children should always perform their livestock chores with supervision. Animals are living, unpredictable creatures and anything can happen.
Additionally, livestock requires constant, consistent care. For example, if water isn’t provided for them, they die. So, be sure to let children enjoy the responsibility of livestock chores but keep a close eye on their safety and performance.
- Check for eggs daily from the outside of the coop. Especially if you have a rooster, be sure that your child can access the eggs without having to go into the run or coop area.
- Gather edible greens and weeds to deliver daily to poultry as a supplement to their diet. Teach them which plants are good for chickens and which aren’t. Don’t forget to include edible flowers and herbs!
- Daily observe broody hens and those with new chicks. This is something that most kids will do anyway, so use their observation skills to alert you to anything new or problematic in your broody hen/chicken mama areas. Train them to check for water and feed, but also for pasty butt or any injuries amongst the chicks.
- Do daily headcounts for chickens, ducks, geese, etc. They’ll usually be the first to know if something is “off” with the poultry.
Other Livestock Chores for Children
- Feed and water smaller stock like rabbits and vermicomposting worms. Be sure to help with dampening vermicompost bedding because you do NOT want it too wet.
- Pass out kitchen scraps to smaller stock. This can often be done using an opening in the animal housing so that your child doesn’t need to go into pen areas.
- Similarly, they can help harvest vegetables, fruits, and herbs meant for livestock during the growing season. They can also have a hand in preserving items for the winter by preparing them for cold storage or cleaning them for dehydrating.
- Love on animals, especially babies, to get them used to people. Be sure to teach them how to properly handle each animal. This will take time and effort, but it will result in respectful children who are capable of governing their behavior around livestock. This will ultimately keep them safe – both the children and the livestock!
- Act as helpers during animal harvesting sessions, either to bring supplies or play with the babies so the grown-ups can get the messy work done
Livestock Chores for Older Children
Depending on the capacity of my older children, I often let them see to these chores on their own. With larger chores, like mucking out stalls, the whole family helps. You don’t want to overwhelm or overtax your homestead kid and kill their love of the homestead!
Basic Livestock Chores
- Feed and water larger stock, still keeping safety in mind. Anytime this can be done from outside the fence or pen, go for it.
- At the same time, this can be a good opportunity to socialize with the animals in appropriate ways. Proper handling, even halter or bridle training, can be coupled with feed time. Our alpacas love feeding time for the food AND the love!
- Put down new straw or other bedding in stalls.
- Move larger stock and movable housing from place to place.
- Install or move fencing.
- Assist with preparing shelters and equipment for winter weather. This usually involves laying down extra bedding material and insulating against cold wind. My kids are far more observant than I am, so they often anticipate problems better than I do.
More Involved Livestock Chores
- Help with birthing and doctoring as appropriate. My oldest daughter has always been on hand for livestock births, often staying up through the night with us and a struggling mama. My middle daughter would rather eat her own head than step foot in the barn at any time. Honor your children’s natures and let them do their thing.
- Assist with harvesting meat animals for food. Same advice as above. Some kids understand that to eat meat, you must harvest an animals. Others have their tender heart hurt on harvesting day. Don’t force participation one way or the other.
- Assist with milking, including cleaning equipment. Teach them to be diligent and exacting in this routine for health and safety. This will carry forward into their everyday lives.
- Check on baby animals daily and make sure their pens are predator proof.
- Help maintain the bee hives during the year and assist in bringing in the honey harvest. Teach them respect for the honey bees when they’re young and they will be able to work around the hives naturally as they age. Always watch for signs of bee sting allergy!
What do your kids do around the homestead? I’d love to add it to my list for future readers. Just comment below!