Oscar Papandrea, 8, loves animals. In his bedroom, he looks after 20 snails and "Virgil van Dijk", a fighting fish named after the centre-back who plays for Liverpool in the English Premier League.

Mrs Brown likes to run over to greet Oscar when he gets home from school, and sneak into the house to snuggle on his bed.

But, for parents, it can hard to know which pet to choose — or how much time and responsibility will be involved.

Here's some helpful advice on choosing the first pet for your children from Oscar's mother Fiona and two vets.

For Oscar's mum Fiona — host of the Little Green Pod — the chickens have become valued and productive members of the family.



"It's great because the chickens eat our food waste, they provide eggs and we don't need to compost — the chickens are our compost bin," she says.

Join host, and exhausted mum-of-two, Fi Poole, on her quest to find quick and easy ways to live a little greener.

"They're a really good choice for a pet. They don't cost you any money really, they give you food, and the kids learn about the cycle of life as well, because chickens die."

Chickens have a natural lifespan of up to 12 years, but commercial breeds often die of a condition called egg peritonitis after two or three.

"He had the neighbours come over and he had his grandparents on the phone. He did a eulogy and we buried her."

"It teaches them [the children] about death, and being resilient to that, which I think is good. With every chicken death, he handles it a bit better, but it won't be a happy day when Mrs Brown dies."

If you think telling your child Fido, Fluffy or Feathers has gone to live on a farm is a good strategy when the family pet dies, think again.

There's been some other benefits, too. Oscar is proud of his chickens, and has made friends with other chicken lovers, including adults.

"It's having a friend on your level, someone you can love and chat to. You'll often just see Oscar having a moment with Mrs Brown."

If you want to live a more sustainable life, do you have to give up steaks, bacon and burgers completely? Not necessarily, writes Jo Hegerty.

Looking after an animal is a big responsibility. If you're not sure if you're ready, there's no need to rush.

Dr Wingham recommends parents and families have a chat to a vet before buying a pet. Vets are a great source of information, and some provide this pet-buying advice for free.

A dog called Noah, a cat named Trevor and a bird who goes by Mr Graham — meet some of the people-named pets from the ABC Life community.

When it comes to first pets, some parents opt for pets that seem more disposable but that's something that upsets Dr Spanner.

"People will say, 'We'll just get some fish, but let's face it, the fish aren't likely to live very long.' And the same goes for a lot of animals," he says.

Cat Scratching Tree

"That is one of my big bugbears. Parents choosing what they consider 'easy' pets for children are often really choosing disposable pets for children.

ABC Life helps you navigate life's challenges and choices so you can stay on top of the things that matter to you.

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