Start them Early and Start them Right: Kid Chores on the Farm

Young Farmer Events

My childhood was spent helping out around the house. From a very early age, I knew how to do things such as wash dishes and launder clothes. I also cut grass, gave the animals baths, ran the vacuum, swept and mopped floors. If I slacked off on my duties, I found my privileges to be greatly lacking, which was usually enough to get my motivation back in line. In my case, the chores of my youth were mainly household chores, but who’s to say kids can’t help with the farm chores as well? No one, that’s who!

Having a little helper on the farm is good on multiple levels. For starters, if the farm is a family endeavor that you wish to pass down to future generations, it is important to train those future generations right. There is no better learning than hands-on learning, so having kids help out jump starts that process. Starting at an early age also establishes a way of life in which time spent working on the farm is the healthy norm as opposed to unhealthy time spent hovering over video games and being inactive.

All told, having kids help out on the farm seems like a wonderful idea, but when and how do you get them started? What your kids are able to do will in large part depend on what you have on your farm for them to do. Chores will vary with age, experience, and the comfort level of both you and your children. While it is perfectly reasonable to have a certain set of expectations, it is important to keep kids safe at all times and respect any reservations they might have. If a child is afraid to deal with certain animals, for example, allow them the time to get comfortable as a lack of confidence around farm animals can often lead to injury regardless of age. Even then, be watchful of these interactions and activities at all times as well; give your child the vote of confidence to get the job done but maintain vigilance to ensure safety.

Photo: Central Livestock Association

Photo: Central Livestock Association

A good starting point for small children is feeding and watering small animals such as chickens. Much of this can be done from the other side of a fence while a comfort level is established. That child can then graduate to collecting eggs and milking goats. With age these chores can be advanced to include cleaning stalls and pens as well as bathing and grooming animals that need it. Yard work can eventually be incorporated as well once children are of sufficient age to safely operate the equipment needed to do so. While these are all good starting points, some other age appropriate chores include:

Age 5 and under:

  • Collect eggs
  • Feed and water small animals
  • Plant seeds and water gardens
  • Groom small animals

Age 5 to 10:

  • Pull garden weeds
  • Collect and take out trash
  • Clean pens
  • Milk goats
  • Bottle feeding animals
  • Bathe animals
  • Harvest vegetables

Age 10 and older:

  • Mow grass
  • Build/repair fences
  • Build/repair pens
  • Feed and water large animals
  • Bathe large animals
  • Milk cows
  • Clean troughs and feeders

These are just some rough estimates based on the average child faced with the average set of farm chores. Each family and children will differ and some individuals may advance quickly on their own whereas others may need some firm but gentle encouragement to participate in the family farming effort. One thing, however, is certain, which is that time spent immersed in farm chores builds character, creates a solid work ethic, and reduces opportunities for kids to get into trouble, all of which are good for every farm family as a whole for the new beginning farmers we create are sure to pave the way to a bright future.

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