Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3 rd grade

Estimated Time:

45 minutes

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.


Students will be able to explain what chickens need to live (shelter, food, water, health) and how farmers care for them.


  • Computer, projector, screen
  • Anchor chart (flip chart) paper

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Conventional: also known as battery-style, is a type of housing system where eggs are laid by hens in enclosures that also serve as nesting space.
  • Enriched colony: is a type of housing system where eggs are laid by hens in enclosures that include perch space, dust bathing or scratch areas, and nest space.
  • Free-run: also known as cage-free, is a type of housing system where eggs are laid by hens not housed in enclosures. Hens roam in a building, room or open area, that includes nest space and perches.
  • Free-range: is a type of housing system where eggs are laid by hens not housed in enclosures and with access to the outdoors. In addition to eating grains, these hens may forage for wild plants and insects.
  • Pasture raised: eggs are laid by hens who roam and forage on a maintained pasture area.
  • Poultry Farm: A place where domesticated birds are raised. Birds include chickens, turkey, ducks, and geese.
  • Broiler Farm: Farm where chickens are raised for meat.
  • Breeder Farm: Farm where chickens and roosters are raised to lay fertilized eggs.
  • Layer Farm: Farm where chickens are raised to lay eggs that can be eaten.
  • Hatchery: Place where eggs are incubated and hatched.
  • Pullet: A young hen
  • Hen: A female chicken
  • Rooster:  A male chicken
  • Brooding: to sit on eggs in order to hatch them

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

Teachers should be familiar with creating anchor charts.

An anchor chart is a tool that is used to support instruction (i.e. “anchor” the learning for students). As you teach a lesson, you create a chart, together with your students, that captures the most important content and relevant strategies. Anchor charts build a culture of literacy in the classroom by making thinking—both the teacher’s and students’—visible.

Poultry can be raised in a variety of ways. Birds raised for meat are raised differently than birds raised for eggs. Turkeys and chickens raised for meat (called broilers) usually live in large open barns, where they can roam through the barn and have consistent access to food and water.

Birds raised for eggs (called laying hens or layers) are also often raised in barns to protect them from weather, disease, and predators. However, since collecting eggs is the main purpose, conventional laying farms will house hens in battery style cages. The floor of the cages is slightly slanted, so eggs will gently roll to a conveyor belt just outside of the cage, making egg collection faster and easier for humans. The cages also help prevent hens from establishing a pecking order. Pecking orders can harm birds and can impact how much feed and water each bird can get. The farm in the My Family’s Egg Farm book is a conventional egg farm.

New market trends have impacted laying hen housing systems, however. Some laying hens live in large barns like broilers. This is called cage-free, or free-run. Some laying hens live in barns with outdoor access. This is called free range. Some laying hens live in special barns with extra perch spaces and other features. This is called enriched colony housing. Some laying hens live completely outdoors. This is called pasture raised.

When farmers choose a housing system for their birds, they must weigh many factors. What will keep the birds safe from predators? What will keep them safe from disease? Will the birds hurt each other in this system? How can we provide equal food for all the birds? Will this system allow me to generate enough profit to maintain the farm? Does this system meet the demands of the market I wish to sell to? We can think of these questions as balancing the three sides of sustainability: economic sustainability, social sustainability, and environmental sustainability.

Review the ‘Caring for Chickens’ PowerPoint to learn more details about the different types of poultry farms.

Interest Approach – Engagement (what will you do to engage students at the beginning of the lesson)

Ask students to read the book My Family’s Egg Farm individually or read the book together as a full class. After reading the book, bring the class together and brainstorm as a whole group ways that the farmer cared for the chickens. Capture the students’ responses on a large writing surface. Encourage students to go back to the text of the book to help them come up with some answers. You may have to prompt students with questions.

  • How did the chickens get food? What kind of food did they get?
  • How did the chickens get water?
  • How do the chickens stay warm in the winter months?
  • How do the chickens stay cool in the summer months?
  • Do the chickens have to worry about bad weather? Why or why not?
  • Do the chickens have to worry about predators like foxes? Why or why not?
  • How do the chickens stay healthy and not get diseases?


  1. To get students thinking about what a chicken farm is like, work as a class to create an anchor chart of what students already know about where our chicks will go next ... the farm. What is a chicken farm like? What do our chickens need to survive? What is the purpose of having a chicken farm?
  2. Set the anchor chart aside, it will be used later in the lesson.
  3. Ask students to take notes, draw pictures, or write keywords in their notebook to help them later in the lesson. (This is a good review of note-taking, they should not write down every word from the slides.)
  4. Present the ‘Caring for Chickens’ slide show. As a class, discuss the material using some of the following prompt questions throughout.
    1. How are chickens and their lifecycle similar to other animals that students have learned about? (Think: birth, growth, reproduction, death)
    2. Are chickens social animals? Do they like to be together? (Answer: Yes. They flock together for survival, warmth, and social order.)
    3. Why are there so many different types, breeds, and colors of chickens? (Domestic chickens are largely white. Colored chickens retain some of the coloring of their wild guinea fowl relatives. Chickens have been raised for thousands of years creating a lot of diversity.)
    4. Why are there different chickens for different purposes? (Broiler breeds have large breasts which produce a lot of meat. Egg breeds produce large eggs. Hackle breeds have very colorful feathers.)
  5. Break kids into groups of 3-4. Give each group a set of chicken farm sorting cards. Have students sort the description/facts cards under the correct heading. Students should be using problem solving and group discussions to correctly sort the cards. They may use their note-taking sheet if they would like.
  6. The most common chicken farm in Iowa is an egg laying farm. Egg laying farms come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Ask students to re-read the My Family’s Egg Farm book. Have them look at pages 22-23 and the different housing systems. Add items to the anchor chart about the different housing systems.
  7. Next, show videos of the different types of egg farms.
    1. Conventional Hen Housing System 
    2. Free Run Housing System
    3. Free Range Housing System
    4. Enriched Colony Housing System
    5. After each video, discuss with these prompt questions.
      1. How were the chickens being cared for?
      2. What is our evidence based on our learning?
      3. Why might farmers try different housing systems?
      4. Many farmers prefer conventional housing systems because they protect the birds from the pecking order and can be more efficient. Many consumers prefer cage-free housing systems because they like the idea of chickens being able to run around. What historical events or perspectives might lead people to think like this?
  8. Revisit anchor chart created at the beginning of the lesson. What type of knowledge can we add to our chart? Is there any information we found to be inaccurate?

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is number 1 in egg production in the U.S. with 53,408,000 laying hens.
  • People in the U.S. on average eat 282 eggs per person per year.
  • In 2017, 76.90 million cases of eggs were processed into liquid or dried egg.
  • In 2017, 8.9 million cases of eggs were exported (both as shell eggs or egg products).
  • Exports of processed egg products in 2017 was 100,520 tons (valued at $119.16 million), up 56 percent with respect to 2016. In 2017, the U.S. exported 1293 million shell eggs (valued at $114.62 million), down 5 percent with respect to 2016.
  • Of the total table egg shipments in 2017, 71 percent or 187.5 million dozen were shipped to the top five export markets – Canada (20%), Japan (20%), China (14%), Mexico (11%) and South Korea (6%).
  • Iowa’s egg industry contributes about $2.4 billion in total sales, some 8,825 jobs, more than $502 million in personal wages and nearly $22.8 million in state tax revenues.
  • There are more chickens than any other type of bird species in the world – around 25 billion.
  • The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex!
  • People have been raising chickens for more than 7,000 years.
  • Chickens will be less nervous if you walk backwards when entering the coop.
  • Most chickens swallow gravel to help mash food.
  • As a chicken gets older the eggs they lay become bigger but fewer eggs are laid.
  • Chickens have excellent hearing and memory.
  • The rooster's wattle is used to bring attention to him when dancing for the hens.
  • You can tell what color of egg a hen will lay by looking at the color of her skin on her earlobe.

Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)


  • The development of this lesson and the My Family’s Egg Farm book were supported in part by the Iowa Egg Council.


Heather Terhune

Will Fett

Organization Affiliation

Alan Shepard Elementary, North Scott Community School District

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T1.3-5.a. Describe similarities and differences between managed and natural systems (e.g., wild forest and tree plantation; natural lake/ocean and fish farm).
  • T2.3-5.d. Provide examples of specific ways farmers/ranchers meet the needs of animals.
  • T4.3-5.b. Describe how technology helps farmers/ranchers increase their outputs (crop and livestock yields) with fewer inputs (less water, fertilizer, and land) while using the same amount of space.
  • T4.3-5.c. Identify examples of how the knowledge of inherited traits is applied to farmed plants and animals in order to meet specific objectives (i.e., increased yields, better nutrition, etc.).
  • T4.3-5.d. Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products.
  • T5.3-5.c. Explain how agricultural events and inventions affect how Americans live today (e.g., Eli Whitney - cotton gin; Cyrus McCormick - reaper; Virtanen - silo; Pasteur - pasteurization; John Deere - moldboard plow).

Iowa Core Standards

  • Science:
    • 3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles, but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
    • 3-LS2-1. Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive.
    • 3-LS3-2. Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
    • 3-LS4-2. Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
  • Social Studies:
    • SS.3.13. Identify how people use natural resources, human resources, and physical capital to produce goods and services.
    • SS.3.25. Explain probable causes and effects of events and developments.

Creative Commons License

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