To many of us, chickens are considered part of the family. Children especially form a special bond with their favorite chicken that can be as deep as any domestic pet. So when one passes on, grief is inevitable. You may be wondering what’s the best way to tell your child that their chicken died. Is it important to tell them the truth? At what age is it considered appropriate?
Here we go through how to tell your child their children died, in the gentlest and most sensible way possible.
How to Tell Your Child Their Chicken Died
As adults, we understand death is a natural part of life. We are able to mentally prepare for it, especially when it comes to any form of farming where this mentality is essential. Unfortunately, children do not quite grasp the concept of death fully yet.
Depending on the age of your children you may wish to change the way you tell them of their chicken’s passing. For example, children under three will find it especially difficult to understand, whereas a teenager will be able to grieve, process it, and move forward.
For each age group, here are some ways to tell your child their chicken died, in ways they’ll understand and be able to find comfort in.
Under The Age Of 3
Children under the age of three will find it especially hard to grasp any concept of death. Children at this age won’t actually register that their chicken has died, even if you are direct with them. This can make it a hard topic to bring up with your young child.
Children at this age may not even show any signs of sadness, and when they’re older will have very little memory of any specific chicken. At this age, it isn’t wrong to downplay the death of your chicken, and you can choose to use the words “death, gone, passed away”.
Still, there is no need to lie to your child about death, but you don’t need to explain it to them in depth. The way you say it and how sad you appear when you tell them will likely make a difference at this age too, as they will be watching your reaction to the news.
Ages 3 To 5
Children between the ages of three to five generally don’t understand the permanence of death, so you’ll have to explain the situation in a direct and honest manner.
As much as possible, avoid euphemisms and phrases such as “went to sleep,” or “went to a better place,” as this can easily cause misunderstandings at this age. Make sure your child understands their pet isn’t coming back and that it isn’t any fault of theirs.
You can begin to explain the concept of death, and that it’s a natural part of life.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Answer their questions to the best of your abilities. Don’t ignore or brush their questions off, no matter how silly.
- Speak with your child as soon as possible. Choose a familiar, quiet place where you can talk to them without anyone disturbing your talk.
- Although it can seem easier, don’t lie to your child. This will only make it harder for them to move on.
- If your child still doesn’t understand, instructional videos and books help. Be patient and understanding, and help them cope with the loss of your chicken.
- Give them a hug. Let them know everything will be okay.
Ages 6 to 10+
In most cases, children between the ages of six and ten already understand a bit about how death works. Therefore, it’s best to explain the situation in a calm but direct manner. Let them know how their chicken died so they’re aware of why it happened.
Children of this age are often curious about the details of the death. Answer their questions as best as you can without spooking them and avoid using euphemisms.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Don’t tell your child it’s their fault even if they indirectly caused the chicken’s death (i.e., leaving the coop open, accidentally injuring them, forgetting to feed them). Instead, explain what happened so they’ll understand what they can do differently in the future.
- Comfort them to the best of your ability. Help them heal and move on.
- Tell your child it’s perfectly okay to mourn the death of their chicken.
- As a keen backyard chicken farmer, you may not be as sad as your child about the death of your chicken. But, it’s important to share in their sadness and grieve together so they learn how to move through it.
Ages 11 to 15+
Children and teens between the ages of 11 and 15 may sometimes hide their feelings from you when you tell them about the death of their chicken. They might think they’re “too old” to cry or that it’s “uncool” or “weak” to do so.
This can be an incredibly sensitive age of your child’s life. It’s important they talk about their feelings, grieve, and mentally process what has happened. Be as honest as you can with them, and share the experience together as a family.
Let your teen know they aren’t alone in their grief and that you’ll always be there to talk to them when they’re sad. Share the best memories of your beloved chicken together. Depending on how close the child was to your chicken you may wish to create a memory book or frame a nice photo. This can be a good way to help say goodbye to your chicken.
As a chicken owner, you have to be mentally prepared for loss, as chickens are notoriously fragile to predators, passing from natural causes, and don’t have the longest life span.
However, children don’t have the option of mentally preparing for the death of their chickens, as they haven’t quite grasped the concept of life and death.
No matter what age your child is, it’s important to explain the situation in an honest and calm manner and share their emotions so they can learn from you how to cope with the loss. Answer any questions they might have and make sure to let them know you’ll always be there for them.