On Monday, my toddler had his cast removed! Hallelujah! This meant that our outdoor time was so much easier this week. He still limps a little as his muscles are weak from the month of not being used. But we can bring him outside without any fear of getting dirt, sand, or rocks in his cast. What a wonderful relief.
Our focus for our nature studies for now is birds. When I read on page 28 of The Handbook of Nature Study. “The hen is especially adapted as an object lesson for the young beginner of bird study… the hen is a bird always available for nature study,” I immediately thought about my friend who has four chickens- born the same day as Shortstop! We were all very excited to go visit her, her dog, and her chickens this week for Outdoor Hour Challenge #7.
Before we went, I took a look at the section in The Handbook of Nature Study on Chicken Ways. The most interesting fact I read was “the chick swallows [food] whole; after being softened by juices from the stomach the food passes into a little mill, in which is gravel that the chicken has swallowed. This gravel helps to grind up the food.” (p 48) I asked my friend about this and she said she also offers them oyster shells for this purpose.
My friend has four chickens, three Barred Rock chickens and one Ameraucana. When we arrived, we walked down the hill to her chicken coop. How thrilling for my children and I when she let the chickens out to roam around us. We were able to have an up close experience with this beautiful, chatty birds. They got to pour some chicken feed on the ground for them and watch them peck at it. They chased the chickens around and later noted that chickens are fast runners. We got to pet one of the Barred Rock hens. The feathers were very soft. X-man found a few feathers to add to our collection. We peeked into the coop and found one brown egg! Last week, we learned about chickens oiling their feathers, a fact Princess K was able to recall as she watched the hens preening. I encouraged the kids to ask questions and I asked several myself. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the hens and we learned a lot. I am interested to find out more about these fascinating creatures.
What We Learned About Chickens
1. The hens- about 5 months old- lay about 6 eggs a week.
2. The Barred Rock hens lay brown eggs.
3. The Ameraucana hens lay light blue or green eggs.
4. Their favorite food is watermelon, though they eat quite a variety of foods she gives them.
5. They use their beaks to peck the ground for food.
On our way home, I asked the kids what they noticed about chickens. Their first reply: “They say ‘bock, bock’ and they run fast.” After a little prompting questions, they remembered, “They lay eggs! They eat with their beaks at the ground.” They were able to remember the colors of the feathers and when I told them the names of the chickens, Z-urchin piped up, “Barred Rock Hicken” and he repeated this fact many, many times throughout the next half hour.
We drew chickens in our nature journals and I recorded their observations and impressions of the chickens. Princess K thoroughly enjoyed our excursion and her drawing and excitedly told her daddy all about it! She also explained in some detail why and how chickens oil their feathers. Spending time in God’s great outdoors and learning about His creation is truly a delight!
The last part of the challenge was to make a personal field guide. When I explained this idea to my children, they were very enthusiastic. I asked them to name the birds we’ve seen and can identify that they wanted to include in our field guide. Their list included: Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Chickens (both Ameraucana and Barred Rock). I reminded them of the Brown Pelican we drew and they decided they wanted to include that as well. We will begin working on that project tomorrow or next week. I am very encouraged with all that they are learning and are able to recall and explain through these outdoor challenges. What a blessing nature study is turning out to be!