Raising chickens alongside your children? Learn how to practice identifying shapes using, you guessed it, backyard chickens. Toddlers love exploring and identifying shapes in the real world.
Learning shapes is the foundation to more advanced math skills involving geometry. Plus identifying shapes outside of the classroom, is just plain fun for toddlers.
Yes, that is right by observing backyard chickens. Raising backyard chickens with young children is a rewarding experience. Not only are fresh eggs delicious, chickens provide a range of learning opportunities for little ones.
Even if you don’t have backyard chickens, you can visit your local farm or find a local backyard chicken keeper. Exposing young children to farm animals can help make the connection between the food that they eat and where it comes from.
Many toddlers hear about and see chickens when reading picture books and stories. Chickens presented in those books can also provide an opportunity to identify shapes.
Before Getting Started
First, you need to find some chickens to observe. Remember, that compared to a toddler, a large chicken can be about half the size of your young child. My toddler has a love hate relationship with our backyard chickens.
When they are out exploring the yard he is fascinated by them, but that can quickly turn into fear when one or two start coming towards him.
It is okay for a child to be afraid and you will want to stay close to them or hold your toddler if they are not comfortable around chickens. Take a minute to explain to them how to respectfully treat a chicken and talk them through their fears if needed.
Remember, chickens are naturally curious and will peck at you and your clothing.
Again, you can always do this activity by observing chickens in a children’s storybook or video. If you do not have access to chickens and are interested in trying out this activity, those are two great options!
Before completing this activity, become familiar with the chickens and learn proper safety measures especially if the chickens are not yours. If there is a rooster present, he can become territorial of his hens.
Always provide supervision when observing chickens with young children. If you handle a chicken, make sure to wash you and your little one’s hands when you are done.
Getting Started: The Basics
For this activity, I stuck to the basic shapes. Triangles, circles, ovals, and rectangles are all shapes that can be identified.
You can do this activity with only one child, but it would be fun to do with multiple kids. Even a small group of children of multiple ages can do this activity together.
If you are able to identify any squares leave a comment below. We tried, but couldn’t find any.
Practicing Shape Identification with Backyard Chickens
One benefit to having a mixed age group, is that older children can take the lead and assist younger toddlers. However, don’t be surprised if your toddler comes up with the most creative ideas. It’s amazing what toddlers observe and see when looking at the world around them.
Many small farms let their chickens free range or have access to a small green space outdoors. Typically, chickens are more relaxed and are less likely to peck at you when they are out free ranging.
While the chickens scurry in the yard or fenced in area, you can practice identify common shapes with your toddler.
Tail Feather Shape
After letting them out, the first shape that you might spot is a triangle. We noticed that when a chicken leans over to peck at the ground, her tail feathers rise up in a triangular shape. many breeds of chickens have defined triangular tail feathers.
Tracks and Feet
I’m not sure what it is about chickens, but I love spotting their tracks left behind in the snow and dirt. If you look closely at the shape that they leave behind you can spot a collection of equilateral triangles.
When looking at a chicken up close, you will also see that their toe nails are triangular in form. Getting a close up shot of a chicken’s feet is about as easy as photographing a moving toddler! I did manage to get at least one clear shot of her feet while she was walking by.
Identifying Little Circles
Chickens are fascinating creatures. Like other birds, they use one eye for looking closely at items and the other for seeing far away objects. This allows them to look for bugs one minute and be on the look out for aerial predators the next.
This is why chickens will look at you suspiciously with one of their eyes turned up to look at you. This brings us to the next shape that you can spot which are circles.
Not only are chicken’s eyes circular, but if you look closely they contain a whole variety of smaller circles within large ones.
Get a Closer Look to Find More Shapes
If you can, pick one up so your toddler could get a closer look. Now, I’ve been pecked near my eye by a chicken before, so it is important to be safe when looking closely at a chicken’s face. Especially if you are not used to being around chickens. The key is to be both calm and gentle.
If you can get a close look, you will see that their eyes are fascinating. So many colors and circles to observe. Do not be surprised if this sparks a conservation about your own eyes. My toddler spent a few minutes looking at my eyes up close after we put the chicken back down.
How Shapes Help Chickens Survive
While observing a chicken up close you can spot more triangles. A chicken’s beak is pointed like a triangle. As you watch the chickens you many be led into a discussion about how their triangular beak helps them peck at the ground.
An Easy Way to Integrate Science
At the same time, you can talk about how their pointed toes and toe nails allow them to dig into the dirt to find food. Not only can you practice identifying shapes, but your toddler can begin to see how chickens get food.
The scientific concept why having different shaped appendages is helpful for survival can be see in real life. This activity can start as practicing shape identification with backyard chickens. But lead you both into a rich discussion about adaptations and survival strategies of animals.
The Next Generation Science Standards state that young learners should begin to explore the connection between the environment and how animals adapt and survive. Including how animals can change their environment to fit their needs.
Just like how a chicken scratches and pecks at the dirt and vegetation to gain access to food. Here is a link to the NGSS’s kindergarten standards in PDF form if you are interested in learning more about the standards.
Finding Lines and Rectangles
For these shapes you may have to get a little creative. When looking at their legs you will notice they are shaped like a long rectangle. If you break up the leg into segments, you can find many rectangles and lines.
By observing a feather on the ground, you will see more lines. Along a long skinny rectangle which makes up the quill of the feather. Plus, another triangle at the end of the quill.
Who would have thought you could identify this many triangles when observing backyard chickens!
Looking closely at the dirt where the chickens ware digging will led you to find more lines. Each time a chicken scratches at the ground they leave behind lines in the dirt.
My toddler thinks it is funny whenever one of our chickens flings dirt around while looking for bugs. Powerful legs and pointy nails help a chicken easily dig and throw dirt. Another way to incorporate how chickens adapt to survive in their environment!
A Collection of Ovals
If you are lucky enough to have laying hens, then where you can spot ovals will not be a surprise. Every time I pull back the curtain on our nest boxes I’m amazed by what I find. Not only are chicken eggs oval in shape, but chickens make a nest out of straw. The shape of both of the eggs and the nest can be oblong.
Backyard chickens lay the most beautiful eggs. Eggs not only vary in color, even within the same breed, but come in different shapes. Raising chickens will allow your toddler to connect with their food source and observe what real food looks like.
I’m not sure if the joy I receive from collecting fresh eggs of varying sized ovals will ever get old.
Raising Chickens with Young Children
New to raising chickens with toddlers or thinking about bringing home a few baby chicks? Check out this article written by Kate MacLean featured on Pete and Gerry’s website for helpful tips and advice.
Raising chickens is a wonderful experience for both toddlers and parents. Knowing a few important safety tips can make keeping backyard chickens more enjoyable for you and your family. Even if you are visiting a local farm or neighbor to observe chickens it is always important to be familiar with safe handling before you go out and explore.
More Garden Themed Toddler Approved Activities
- How to Start Seeds with a Toddler the Easy Way
- Reading a Seed Packet Literacy in Science Activity for Kids