Caring for farm animals

Adult-led activities

  • Introduce children to the things that are natural behaviours for hens – flapping their wings, pecking the ground, building a nest, laying eggs on a nest and sitting on them, dustbathing and sitting on a perch at night. Can the children mime these things? Introduce the photos of the caged hens and the free-range hens from the image collection Farm animals. Ask one group of children to sit in a confined space, such as underneath the table, and pretend to be caged hens. Ask another group to pretend to be free-range hens who can choose where to go in the given space. Compare which of those natural behaviours each group can do. Ask which group of hens they think is the happiest. Show examples of egg boxes that are labelled 'caged' or 'free-range' and suggest to the children that the next time they are in a supermarket, they ask an adult to show them the different types.
  • Visit an approved working farm with the children. See the link to FACE in the tab Useful websites, which can give links to farms approved for school visits.
  • Use the farm animal images from the collection of images Baby animals - Farm animals to play a ‘snap’ game with the children, matching the adult animals to their young. When a child successfully matches up a pair, they must give one example of what that animal needs before they can take the cards.
  • Cut out the statements from the activity sheet Who cares for baby? Mother animals do some of the things that are needed to care for their young, but the farmer needs to do other things. With the children, discuss the statements and sort them according to whether they are jobs for the farmer or for the mother (see teachers' notes Who cares for baby? (answers)). Some of them could belong in both categories.
  • Play the corners game. Identify four corners of the classroom or playground and label them cow, pig, sheep and chicken. Hold up either food packets or pictures of products that come from animals and the children must run to the corner that represents the animal who helped to make the product.

Opportunities for child-initiated activities

  • Attach a trailer to a sit-on toy vehicle and put some toy animals in there, which the farmer is taking to market. Ask the children how they are going to make sure that the animals are safe and comfortable throughout their journey. Ask them if they have enough water on board. Have they checked the vehicle to make sure that it is safe and working? Will they stop during their journey?
  • Use a small-world farm but set it up each day so that something different is wrong. Can the children put it right? The children can be told each day what the problem is. See the teachers’ notes Farm play – Situations.
  • Put out a selection of food packets, imitation food or pictures of food taken from the activity sheet Products from animals, together with some sorting rings. When the children are sorting them, ask them about the criteria they are using. Have they thought about which ones came from animals?
  • Create a farm animal chatterbox – a box of objects relating to farms – that the children can pull out and use to talk to a partner about farms, the animals and their needs. The box could include: 
  1. toy farm animals
  2. fence pieces and a barn from the farm set 
  3. some strands of hay
  4. a small bucket
  5. a toy stethoscope
  6. woollen gloves
  7. some imitation food that comes from animals, e.g. an egg, milk carton.
  • Put out the images of farm animals and their babies for the children to match up. Ask them about how they have matched them up. Model the use of the correct vocabulary for the animal babies. Ask the children what things the mother animal needs to do for her young and what the farmer needs to do.
  • Set up a farm role play area. You will need:
  1. suitable clothing for the children to dress as the farmer
  2. areas designated for different animals
  3. a bucket so that the farmer can fill up the water troughs each day
  4. different bags/sacks to represent the feed for each animal
  5. a telephone so that the farmer can call the vet when necessary
  6. tools to mend the fences and shelters
  7. a list of possible situations for any adult who might join in the play – see teachers’ notes Farm play - Situations.