A while back my sons and I volunteered to collect
eggs at the Prairie
Crossing Learning Farm in Grayslake. We visited the farm
once a week to collect, count and candle the eggs laid by their
flock of free-range chickens. We were part of their Hen House
Each week, we collected 70 to 120 eggs - it felt
like a real-live Easter egg hunt. We cleaned each egg in a special
cleaning solution, candled each egg (shone a light behind the egg
to look for small cracks and other abnormalities), counted the
eggs, put them into egg cartons and delivered them to the organic
farm store next door to be sold. Occasionally we fed the chickens
and always watched out for unusual things like chickens running
loose out of the yard (I had to chase some chickens down and toss
them back in a few times) or
On our training day, we arrived to find two hawks
swooping down into the chicken yard attempting to procure their
"dinner." Our trainer assured us this was very unusual, like, had
never happened before unusual. After 30 minutes of trying to scare
away the hawks and round up the chickens into the mobile hen house,
the hawks realized they wouldn't be dining at the farm and flew
away. We completed our training.
We learned a lot while volunteering at the farm. We
learned about farms and chickens and chicken temperaments. We
learned how free-range chickens live, which encouraged us to
research how caged chickens live. We learned how to be careful with
the eggs and the chickens. And we learned exactly what goes into
getting an egg from the chicken to our refrigerator.
Even though my kids learned about being careful
with the eggs, I was still concerned that they would get broken as
we collected them each week. And they did. But the trainer assured
us that the program was designed with kids in mind, to educate
them, so breakage wasn't a big concern. The kids were encouraged to
be careful, but she understood that kids are kids. Typically we
broke two to three eggs each week; one week my son dropped an
entire dozen. The eggs sold for five dollars a dozen, but they
never charged us and even let us take a couple eggs home each
Another thing that kept us on our toes was the
anticipation of getting pecked by the chickens. While their pecks
didn't necessarily hurt, the sudden movements of the chicken's peck
left us on edge. The chickens didn't mind us unless we had to reach
under them while they were sitting on a nest - there were typically
eight to 10 nests being occupied of the 48, while the other 90 or
so chickens were out traipsing in the yard, probably trying to lose
the trail of those pesky roosters.
One of my sons refused to help with collecting eggs
that were currently being sat on by chickens after being pecked the
first week. Fortunately, my other son was fearless and had no issue
with reaching his hand under the hens' nesting rumps to search for
fresh eggs. He thought the chickens were soft and enjoyed petting
them. I opted to use the large, heavy-duty rubber gloves they
supplied to prevent me from having any actual contact with the
We haven't volunteered at the hen house for a
while. We took a break when we adopted our daughter. She's very
active and I knew it would be too difficult to watch her while
collecting and counting the eggs. But she is four-and-a-half now
and my sons have been asking to go back to the hen house. I think
we'll be calling soon to see if they need our help.
If you're interested in becoming a Hen House
Helper, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Hall is a married homeschooling mom to her three kids, all of which were adopted from China, living in the lovely suburbs of Chicago.
See more of Kate's stories here.
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