Having a small homestead involves a lot of work. But when a family works together, the load is much lighter. Here are some ways kids can help on the homestead.
We live on three acres in the interior of Alaska. Since moving here several years ago, we have adopted a homesteading way of life. We garden to grow food, keep bees for honey, poultry for eggs and meat, dairy cows for milk, and we hunt, fish, and forage.
It’s a lot of hard work being more self-sufficient and living off of the land. But when we work together as a family, we accomplish a lot and we spend more time with each other learning valuable skills. We are so glad that our children are able to grow up this way.
Our three girls are currently 13, 11, and 10. We have been at this a few years so as they get older, their responsibilities increase as well as what they are able to do and want to do. Our girls are hard workers, enjoy challenges, love taking care of our animals, and helping any way that they can.
These lists include what our girls do here with us but will vary for other families, depending on your childrens’ ages and abilities. Here are some ways kids can help on the homestead as you work together as a family.
Ways Kids Can Help on the Homestead
We keep chickens, ducks, and a goose for eggs, and over the summer, we also raise chickens and/or turkeys for our white meat. Getting new chicks each spring is always a highlight and our girls love doting on the little baby birds. Starting with poultry is a great way for kids to learn animal husbandry. Our girls are very capable of taking special care of our birds and even help in the processing of the meat birds.
Here are important ways that they help us raise our poultry:
- Refill the feeder daily
- Refill the waterer daily
- Feed them kitchen scraps/treats
- Clean out the brooder/chicken coop
- Add new bedding when needed
- Collect eggs
- Wash eggs (if necessary)
- Help process meat birds
- Package meat for freezing
- If pressure-canning the meat (turkeys), help fill jars
We keep two Jersey dairy cows for fresh milk. We have had our milk cow for two years now and her calf is almost six months old. The girls love spending time with both of them and helping to take care of them. Now that we’re milking twice a day, one or all three of them comes with me to every milking to help. We even had them milk by themselves a few times (they really wanted to!) just to make sure they were able to if necessary.
Our routine involves the girls helping me get the equipment and then Honey all ready for milking and while I milk her, they complete the rest of the barn chores and then help me again afterward.
Most people that we know around here with dairy animals keep goats or even sheep. We have no experience with those dairy animals so our list might differ slightly but the general idea is the same.
These are the ways that the girls help me care for our dairy cows:
- Refill water trough as needed
- Give fresh hay daily
- Scoop out stall
- Tidy the barn
- Add fresh bedding if needed
- Refill any other feed supplements (baking soda, etc)
- Help halter train young calves/take them for walks
- Brush animals and give them attention
- Help prepare and carry milking equipment
- Lead animal to milking area/stanchion
- Get the animal ready for milking
- Help with the milking process
- Bottle, label, and refrigerate milk
- Help clean up after milking
We currently keep six colonies of honeybees on our property. We love keeping bees, especially our 11-year-old daughter. She even has her own hive now and maintains it and keeps records on it for 4-H. Our other two girls prefer to enjoy them at a distance so they don’t participate in hive checks but there are plenty of other ways that they help:
- Help build hive boxes and frames
- Make sugar water for spring feeding
- Participate in hive checks
- Help with honey extraction and bottling
- Help make candy boards for overwintering
Children can be greatly involved in gardening and it’s so nice to have their help. From starting seeds to harvesting, they can do a lot. Our oldest daughter, currently 13, really loves gardening and has several indoor plants in her room that she’s taking care of, including trying to grow apple trees.
These are the ways that our girls participate in the growing of our food:
- Help with seed starting
- Help prepare/till/hill soil for planting
- Sow direct seeds and help transplant starts
- Pick fresh vegetables and herbs for meals
- Help harvest at the end of the summer
- Carry harvest to house or storage area
- Dig up and bag potatoes
One of the first activities we were eager to try when we moved to Alaska was berry picking. This state is known for its bounty of berries and going picking throughout the summer for our year supply is still one of our favorite activities. We eat them plain, make jam, and freeze them for a tasty treat during the winter. This is obviously a great activity for kids as they can do a lot:
- Pick berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, rosehips, etc)
- Pick leaves and stems out of buckets
- Help prepare berries for storage (jam, freezing, etc)
Hunting & Fishing
Since we have lived here, my husband has taken up hunting and fishing and provides our family with all of our red meat and fish. Caribou, moose, venison, and black bear as well as salmon, halibut, lingcod, and more. Having our children participate in getting meat is important to us. Our girls have an understanding of what it takes to eat meat and fish.
Our oldest daughter has harvested a black bear and a caribou so her understanding has grown this past year. The work that goes into bringing an animal home for food is incredible and we are so proud of her. Her sisters will be old enough soon and look forward to helping more too.
There are many ways that our girls take part in the harvesting of meat:
- Go hunting and/or fishing (depending on age and ability)
- Help process the meat/fish
- Package meat/fish for freezing
- Load meat/fish into the freezer
- If pressure-canning meat/fish, help assemble jars
I’m sure I have forgotten other ways kids can help on the homestead because the girls do so much. We couldn’t do half of what we do without them! Especially after having a baby last spring, they really stepped up to help me. When children have important responsibilities and are appreciated for all of their hard work, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish!