5 life lessons from raising chickens

life lessons
One of our fine roosters on the farm. He thinks he’s quite handsome. What do you think?

When my dad had me start raising chickens early in high school, I was not planning on learning “life lessons”. Sure, I figured I’d learn how to raise chickens and sell them for meat, but I had no idea that my dad’s sneaky scheme would pay off. Through that experience, I learned so much about myself, work, God…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Out of the numerous things I learned, here are five life lessons from raising chickens.

1. Responsibility is healthy.

In a world that is convinced that children shouldn’t have to do chores, it can be hard to insist that your own children take on responsibilities. But responsibility is not only healthy, it’s necessary!

I frequently struggled with forgetfulness growing up, but fought against being held responsible for it. That doesn’t fly when live animals are on the line. Feed and water them, and they live. Forget, and they suffer and possibly die. Having living creatures depend on me quickly taught me to be responsible for the tasks I needed to accomplish.

2. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Starting a business, any business, is an excellent way to learn this lesson. Because I can guarantee you, something will go wrong. Sometimes slightly discouraging, sometimes catastrophically devastating. But usually somewhere in between.

Half grown broiler chickens in their pasture pens.

One spring we started with fifty chicks and ended up with thirty-five. We lost most of them right at the beginning to an inexplicable illness. It was really hard to pick back up from there. But as it says in the song, Try Everything, “I won’t give up, no I won’t give in/’Til I reach the end and then I’ll start again.” I learned a lot, started over with the next batch, and didn’t look back.

3. Data is my friend.

I definitely did not think I would learn to love data! But in running a business, it’s absolutely essential. From the beginning, my dad insisted on keeping careful records of pretty much anything. That allowed me to look back at our spreadsheets and find patterns.

I could keep track of how much feed the chickens went through, when they would start to need water refills twice a day, and how soon they would need to be butchered due to their weight. I don’t prefer to keep such detailed records, but this experience taught me its value!

4. Learn to serve.

I can distinctly remember one day when I went out to the chicken pens to refill the waterers.

Moving chicks into their moveable pasture pens.

It was excessively hot and muggy. I had hoped to make it a quick trip, as I had lots of other “more important” things to do. Of course, Murphy’s Law kicked in and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

After a prolonged struggle with a metal fastener,  I cut myself badly. The feeder broke and spilled chicken feed all over the ground. I felt like crying and screaming (not exemplary, I know). All at once it hit me.

Why didn’t I see it before? I was only thinking of myself: my needs, my desires, my way. The Lord showed me in a powerful way that by working with the chickens, I was serving them, as strange as that sounds. That spilled over into the way I approached my household chores as well. I had to learn to put the needs of others (siblings…and chickens) above my own, and serve with a joyful heart.

5. Glorify God with your work.

Above all else, being a young entrepreneur has taught me to glorify God with my work. I never knew that raising chickens could bring glory to God, but it does. That’s the biggest lesson that has transferred into everything else I do.

I’ve since moved on from raising chickens. That was a season, and Lord willing, I will enter into that season again with my future family. But right now I am learning to glorify God with my work through tutoring homeschool families, working with MPE’s social media team, and training to be a labor doula.

You may not have the capacity to raise chickens. But that’s by no means the only way to pursue youth entrepreneurship! Get creative and use the passions your children already have to cultivate a business. Whether the business lasts for a week or, possibly, a lifetime, the life lessons will be truly priceless.

What business opportunities have you or your kids pursued? What are the most impactful life lessons you’ve learned through them?

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