Letter Re: Kids Can Earn Their Keep

Dear Hugh,

I thought T.B. had some good ideas for kids involvement in almost any situation, but I wanted to bring up a point about feeding the animals.

We are about two years into our new retreat now, and in the process we acquired farm animals. The first year we bought chickens; the second year we bought cattle. My experience with both has led me to believe it is not necessarily a good idea for children to be working with farm animals, as I had my own learning curve with them that has resulted in some injuries. I’ve owned two roosters that both were into attacking people. First, I got rid of one. The last one died of lead poisoning after he spurred me so hard I had to make a trip to the emergency room, get the wound cleaned out, and got on anitbiotics. He got me in the forearm through a shirt and down to the muscle. I think he was going for my face. All I did was bring in the food to their enclosure. I had previously and wrongly thought I had the attacking problem solved, but he injured me just the same. I was really fond of that rooster, too.

Our cows are by nature very sweet, but they are very large. Even when we bring out food they like, some of them bounce around excited like a happy dog, a TWELVE HUNDRED POUND dog. We have one who will come up and try to head butt you to demand more of what is being served. Also, if a cow is accidentaly startled, she can kick hard enough to kill you. We were securing one in a pen who had just given birth for the first time and had to assist the nursing process at the beginning. As I was closing the gate, she kicked the gate back into my forehead pretty hard. Luckily, I have a hard head. (Just ask my husband.)

That is why I would be extremely reluctant to let kids feed farm animals in TEOTWAWKI. If they are nearly into adulthood and we give them some good supervision first as to what to watch for, then yes, they should be able to feed the animals. I know I may sound like I am in contradiction to the intent of Future Farmers of America, and I like that program, but if you no longer have medical care available for animal accidents, now what? I’m pretty careful, but I still got hurt from my animals. Animals aren’t always predictable.

All that aside, we as protective parents are supposed to earn a keep for our children. Ideally, we introduce them into responsibility according to their maturity level, even in TEOTWAWKI. Even then, and especially then, kids need play time, too. Sincerely, – Mrs. RLB

Hugh Replies: One of the reasons that our cities are so full of incorrigible teenagers today is that we allow them to act as little children well into adulthood. (We won’t discuss the underlying family issues here, mainly the lack of a family.) By the time a child is 15 or 16, they are capable of performing a man’s or woman’s work, physically. If they are not ready mentally by that time, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Having been raised on a farm, I have memories of caring for animals that “had it in for me”, but that didn’t stop me from handling my responsibilities. In fact, I learned much about life by becoming resourceful in dealing with these animals. I have watched a neighbor girl who is seven years old hold off a rooster with nothing more than a badminton racket while she collected eggs. I used to have to feed a cow that would pin me up against the fence when it got the chance and try to gore me (though it had no horns) when I was 10.

When you deal with these things as children, you learn to respect them and you learn how to read them. There are very few animals that are unpredictable. In fact, most animals tell you well in advance what their intentions are. By working with our children when they are young, they will be able to handle all but the most ornery animals by the time they are teens. By the time they are 15 or 16, they should be able to handle any of them as well as you. There are always exceptions. There are animals that are not right in the head as well as people, and those should always be taken into account, but coddling our children will only set them up for failure when they need the most success.

We are dealing with a prime example of this right now. While we were on vacation for two weeks, we had some city folk take care of our chickens. It’s not hard to deal with them as there is no rooster in the bunch right now. You just have to feed and water them regularly. Upon our arrival home, they were not laying. I like to think that they missed me, but the reality is that the teenagers caring for them obviously were not regular in their care of them. The chickens are still letting me know how unhappy they were in our absence. I’m hoping for eggs again sometime soon! On the flip side, we boarded our dog with a kennel that didn’t use cages or TV’s and the person actually spent quite a bit of time loving on the dogs in her care. We returned to a fat and happy dog that was almost reluctant to come home. Remember, the earlier and better we learn those lessons, the more prepared we are to handle whatever happens if TEOTWAWKI actually happens.

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.” – 2 Chronicles 34:1-2

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12