Last year I was approached by a forward-thinking nursing home director about installing a flock of chickens at her facility. The memory loss residents spend their days in a room looking over a lush green – and boring – lawn. She thought that a flock of busy, chatty hens would engage and delight the residents. I was brought on to consult on this project. I selected the coop, and will train the staff who will care for the hens. I’m also providing the pullets, which is why there are 26 chicks in my brooder. I’ll be saving the five most distinctive, calm, healthy and friendly of the lot to live at the nursing home.
In the meantime, I’ve been meeting some of the residents through programs that involve me talking, and chickens being their charming selves. Yesterday I brought five chicks to the home. Already, the benefits of having chickens in their lives was quantifiable. An elderly and oppositional woman who usually paces the halls, sat for the full hour of my presentation, smiling and fully engaged. A resident who is usually reticent to talk up asked a question.
Because of privacy concerns, I can’t show photos of the residents, but I can show you this, which, I think, says it all.