Click here to download a lesson on chickens which meets the California Department of Education 3-LS1-1 standard. This includes information about chicken classification, ancestry, vocabulary, shelter, diet, senses, communication, and embryo development.
Students will learn about the roles chickens play in their group that help them survive more successfully. Students will be able to identify each stage of a chicken's life cycle and the characteristics specific to that stage. With the accompanying activities, students will create models of this life cycle to demonstrate their knowledge.
Read the following stories about the rescued animal residents of Charlie's Acres and answer the questions below.
Brewster began life as a chick in a classroom hatch project and went to live with a family when the project was over. When Brewster grew up, his family was disappointed to discover that he was a rooster, rather than a hen and became so frustrated with his loud crowing that someone in his family through a piece of wood at him and severely broke his leg. Brewster was rescued by a neighbor who had him go through a series of surgeries, and after his leg healed, he came to live at Charlie’s Acres. He takes his job seriously and is VERY protective of his hens, but that is not to say that he is mean. He is very kind and generous with his group of hens and always lets them know when he finds a really good treat and lets them eat first.
Davey & Mulligan
Davey & Mulligan are two extremely lucky roosters. Raised on a commercial farm for meat, they were packed tightly on a transport truck headed to a factory to be killed when they were only six weeks old. This truck crashed on the highway in Southern California, killing or letting loose hundreds of chickens. Davey and Mulligan were on the side of the road when they were rescued by a passerby. Their story is extraordinary but not uncommon. In 2018 nearly 100 transport truck accidents involving animals were in the media in the U.S. alone. Davey & Mulligan now live in a “bachelor group” with three other roosters and a flock of sheep. They spent their days foraging in their huge pasture and dustbathing.
Bernard is quick to attract attention on tours because of his unique look. This silkie rooster was living in Oakland when his family realized he was a male and began crowing. Roosters are often misunderstood and unwanted. Whether they were a classroom hatch project, or a family pet or backyard hen that turned out to be a rooster, their loud crowing leads to them not being allowed within certain city limits or no longer being wanted by their home. Rescue organizations and shelter find themselves overwhelmed with requests for roosters. Fortunately for Bernard, his family wanted to find a safe home for him so he wouldn’t be euthanized and reached out to us. Bernard may be small but he has not seemed to notice and will always stand up for his friends.
The Leghorn Girls
These leghorn hens; Cara, Ellen, Florence, Hillary, Jesse, Laverne, Sara, Valerie, and Cordelia; came from a highly concentrated factory farm and were kept crammed together in filthy battery cages. Leghorns are perhaps the most intensely bred for high egg production. They lay about 300 eggs per year each. This is very difficult on their bodies and battery cage hens are typically considered “spent” between 12 and 18 months. Due to the loss of calcium and nutrition that comes with egg production, these hens can suffer from osteoporosis and broken bones. When they arrived, their feathers were ragged, and they were thin and in poor condition. With plenty of extra high protein treats, these hens gained weight and their feather quality improved. They now spend their days foraging in the grass under the watchful eye of Brewster the rooster.
- How did Brewster injure his leg?
- How do you think the kind neighbor helped Brewster recover?
- Why might some people say that Davey and Mulligan are lucky?
- Why did Bernard's family find him a new home?
- Why is it sometimes difficult for roosters to find new homes?
- Why were the leghorn girls unhealthy when they first arrived at the sanctuary?
- Who does Brewster live with?
Chickens used in the egg industry have been bred to lay 250-300 eggs a year so that companies can sell more eggs. Laying this many eggs is hard on a hen; they can develop a lot of health problems from laying so many eggs. Many of these hens are also kept in small cages or dirty sheds with no windows, instead of outside on the grass in the sun.
People also breed chickens for their meat. Chickens who are used for meat have been bred to grow much bigger than they normally would – even as much as four times their natural size! Being this big is difficult for them. Their legs can hurt and they can have a hard time walking or even just standing up. Imagine if you were so big that you couldn't stand up. How would that make you feel?
Why would we care about how healthy chickens are or how they feel? Because, like us, they feel pain and fear and loneliness. And, like us, they want to live happy lives and be free from suffering. So, if we care about each other for these reasons, why not care about the chickens, too?
- Learn how chickens grow inside eggs with these print and match cards.
- Practice your vocabulary with a chicken-themed word search.
- Get moving with Chicken Dance Musical Chairs.
- Make some music with this DIY chicken cuica drum.
- Show off your chicken knowledge with this lifecycle of a chicken craft project.
- Let a chicken keep their feathers by making these painted paper feather decorations.
- Make a chicken-themed card for your Valentine.
- Help Brewster find his flock in this digital jigsaw puzzle.
- Show how well you understand chicken lives with this fill-in-the blank worksheet.