Chickens rule the roost at San Sior primary school in Wales. Headteacher Ian Keith Jones explains the benefits and offers advice for starting your own brood...
Funded using savings gained from a recycling initiative, San
Sior started with six chickens and now has a flock of over one
hundred birds of many different breeds; producing 150 eggs a week
and top-quality fertiliser for the school's allotment, flower
garden and orchard. Children collect the eggs, feed and water
the flock, incubate eggs in the classroom, care for newly hatched
chicks and get their hands dirty.
San Sior is the
only school in Wales which sells eggs - it has a licence to do so
and a special stamp for traceability. They are sold locally and to
parents, in transparent packaging designed by the children to show
off the huge variety of egg colours their chickens produce.
Ian's ambition was that the pupils should take an interest in -
and a responsibility for - the chickens. "I wanted them to develop
a full understanding not only of where a major source of food comes
from, and the cycle of life, but also about how to care for these
During their class's Chicken Week, children collect the eggs,
feed and water the flock, incubate eggs in the classroom, care for
newly hatched chicks and get their hands dirty. Each class does
environmental learning during this time too - which means teachers
can make the most of the time outdoors with curriculum activities
based around the pond, orchard, vegetable patch and garden. The
chickens make an enormous, and positive, impact on the children,
giving them confidence, team work skills and a sense of
"There's always a huge learning opportunity here because the
children are so engaged and enjoying what they're doing," says
It is they who get to decide what that money is spent on. Last
year, after much governor and parental consultation, four hives of
bees joined the school. The local beekeeping club helped set up the
hives and funding from Tesco provided suits for the children.
"I'd never kept bees, but that's the beauty of education. The
children ask me things - I don't know the answers, but you can find
out together...Doing stuff on this scale may not be for every
school, but it's absolutely part of ours now."
Ian's top tips for successful school hens
- Consult people. You never know, you might have expert parents
- Read about keeping chickens and how to look after them.
- Start small, perhaps three to four birds.
- Choose different varieties. We wanted to see which hens laid
well and the different colours of their eggs.
- Don't worry about space. You don't need a huge amount, but it
does need to be enclosed.
- Build or buy a decent house. They need somewhere secure to
roost at night.
- Let the children get involved with a rota for feeding, egg
collecting and cleaning.
- Use the chickens in your learning. Weigh, count and observe the
- Measure out feed and water. Write diaries and stories about the
The possibilities are endless!