Purina News

Therapy Chickens: Three Flocks Changing the World

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Shoreview, Minn. [May 17, 2017] – Think back to a moment that changed your life. At the time, it may have seemed small; in retrospect, that decision changed everything for the better. For many families across the country, this change came with backyard chickens – and a renewed happiness through chicken therapy.

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., a flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition, explains that chickens offer a therapeutic effect through comfort, routine and companionship. This combination is especially positive for children, seniors and those overcoming obstacles.
therapy chickens are changing the world
“Chickens have unique personalities and rely on routine,” Biggs says. “This makes it easy for caretakers to develop a bond with their birds. A flock of backyard chickens can make good therapy animals because they are calming to watch, relatively easy to care for and deliver daily rewards in the form of farm fresh eggs.”
Stories about chicken therapy are often shared on the Purina Poultry Facebook page. Following are tributes to three special flocks and the impact they have on their caretakers: 

James’ chickens provide autism therapy.

Meredith Waskow-Bend has a small flock of hens. Like many families, she purchased chicks for her kids and quickly noticed a difference.
“James, my 6-year-old son, has autism. His psychologists recommended that he focus on steps throughout the day to form a routine. We thought chickens would be a fun way to provide this consistency,” she says.
The key with James was to start slowly, teaching him how to care for his three therapy chicks. As the girls grew, James found a routine and love for chickens, most notably a hen he named Red Feather.
“Today, he likes to feed them. He knows how much feed goes into which container and how to fill up their waterers. He loves to collect the eggs and knows which egg is laid by which hen,” Meredith says.
“One of James’ favorite things to do is read to the chickens; he’s been reading to Red Feather since the day we brought her home,” she adds. “His face amazes me when he recites all the information he’s learned. The bond that James has with the chickens is unbelievable!”
Hen therapists bring joy to senior community.

Backyard chickens have also brought joy to a senior living community in Texas called Heartis Conroe Senior Living Community. A community flock was added as part of the center’s purpose-driven activities, with nine baby chicks arriving in early spring 2016.
The residents helped care for the birds from the start, watched them develop and enjoyed spending time with the flock each day. The project was an opportunity for the entire community to learn and develop the program together with research and hands-on experiences for everyone. The residents loved the chicks so much that they are planning to get more this year.
“We call our flock our ‘hen therapists’,” says Julie Whittaker, who helped jumpstart the project with the residents. “They provide the community a lot of joy and wonderful fresh eggs. One of the greatest moments was when we found our very first egg. We all celebrated and took photos with it. The flock is something we can all enjoy together and the residents spoil the girls with love.” 
Henry’s chickens help him fight an autoimmune disease.
Mandy Seiders works at a Purina retail location and has been helping her son, Henry, in his fight against a rare autoimmune disease. At just 4-years-old, Henry is battling autoimmune encephalitis (AE).
While working through his journey toward remission, Henry has formed a connection with backyard chickens, often visiting a neighboring flock dubbed ‘Henry’s chickens.’
“The flock always makes him happy; he lights up when we visit them,” Mandy says.
Chickens also bring him hope while traveling for treatments. If Henry is having a bad day, Mandy sends out a call to her Facebook friends to post photos of their chickens. They look through the photos together, bringing smiles to Henry’s face.
While his mom refuses to let any chickens inside, Henry has a flock of stuffed chickens and also sleeps with a ceramic egg every night with hopes that it will hatch.
“Henry just underwent 6 transplants and is on multiple chemotherapies, blood infusions and intense rehab for his battle against autoimmune encephalitis,” Mandy says. “However, he insists that chicken hugging is the best therapy.”
Ready to start your own flock? Visit www.purinachickdays.com for useful tips and local events. To read more flock stories and share your experiences, connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.