23 Jun 2016

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.

San S Eggs
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 creatures too."

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 ownership.

"There's always a huge learning opportunity here because the children are so engaged and enjoying what they're doing," says Ian.

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 or governors.
  • 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 eggs. 
  • Measure out feed and water. Write diaries and stories about the chickens.

    The possibilities are endless!

San S Music