|Peg's Buff Orpington c Shobe Biz Communications|
It wasn't until recently that I heard of therapy chickens. Oh, sure. I've met therapy dogs and even a rabbit or two, but therapy chickens? I first heard about them while I was interviewing Ruth Haldeman, the creator of chicken diapers, who sells her product via chickendiapers.com. Ruth said that she receives orders for chicken diapers for therapy chickens so that the hens may be brought into institutions and homes without any mishaps.
Are therapy chickens becoming a trend? Perhaps so. The Missoulian posted a video clip on their website about Jana Clairmont who takes her two chickens, Alex and Carlita, to seniors at the Poison Health and Rehabilitative Center. The chickens let the seniors pet them, talk with them and receive comfort from them.
The Chicken Whisperer has a Therapy Chicken Facebook page that supports comments about therapy chickens. One woman wrote in that a bipolar woman used to rely on her chickens for comfort, that was until they were taken away. Another woman says that her seven-year old autistic daughter has a hen as her best friend.
In fact, chickens helping children with autism and Aspergers seems to be growing. In a report in the Examiner, a two-year old autistic boy in Florida was learning socialization and eye contact through his hens, that was until the city cited the family for having chickens in their backyard. The family fought the restriction by noting that the chickens were helping their autistic child as well as providing an organic food source for their child. The city was reviewing their ordinance when the chickens were brutally slaughtered. Now, the community is flocking together to bring the family new chickens.
According to PetChicken.com, chickens serve a very real purpose for autistic children or children with Aspergers. "An autistic or Aspergers individual inherently needs to be assisted away from over fixation on the inner self. This encouragement to outward awareness and not to fear it can be found in the antics and curious jerky head motions that catch the eye made by all chickens. It is so captivating and funny. They will insatiable draw the autistic into attention to and care for the chickens in a way that will be a mutual bond that will last...Chickens, as with most pets, will coax a special needs child to innately accept that there is fascinating 'chaos' in life and that unpredictable things will occur with fun result."
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released that 1 in every 88 American children has an autism spectrum disorder. This number is a ten-fold increase over the last 40 years with improving diagnosis being only one of the reasons that this statistic has increased so much. With these staggering autism numbers, it seems that therapy chickens may have to be on the rise.
How do you raise a therapy chicken? There isn't much information on this but Hope Farm Projects Therapeutic Farm (Elizabeth, CO), a 105-acre farm owned by Teri Allen, is doing what it can to support the raising and training of therapeutic chickens. It also has a therapeutic riding program; a job skills training program for people with disabilities; an animal rescue; therapy horses; and other small therapy animals like pigs, goats, llamas and ducks.
If you have more information about therapy chickens, I'd love to hear about it!