Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Therapeutic Chickens: Help this Michigan Family Save Their Chickens

Chicken Woman                copyright 2011

Action needed: Sign this petition to help this Michigan family keep their chickens for their daughter with cerebral palsy and their son with cognitive medical problems.  (Click on purple link above to access petition. Nearly 9,000 people have already signed it. Let's go for 10,000!)

TV news clip from WILX News 

Anyone who has ever raised chickens knows firsthand the therapeutic effects of raising chickens. These adorable birds make you giggle and laugh with their antics--from their jerky head movements to peck bugs off the ground to their outrageous chicken squabbles over a scoopful of scratch. I even had one peck at my back door the other night after I had put the chickens back into the coop. She was telling me that I had forgotten one--her!

Many of the breeds are so docile that they like to be held. This Cochin of mine, cleverly named Coachie, is one such hen.

In a previous post, I talk about the therapeutic effects of chickens. Chickens are known for being beneficial to children with Asperger's or autism. They often help children learn how to socialize and make eye contact.

Therapy chickens also travel to retirement and assisted living homes where seniors pet them, talk with them and receive comfort from them.

A good dose of chicken is good for the soul.

A family located in Perry, Michigan have two children, Katelyn and Lucas, who currently have access to animal-assisted therapy or chicken therapy. Perry, Michigan, is a small town that is 2.9 square miles and has a population of 2,188 people (2010 Census). It is located 22 miles northeast of Lansing (Michigan's state capitol) and 30 minutes from Flint, Michigan (according to the City site.)

Here is what the family's petition says:

Katelyn and Lucas participate in Animal-assisted therapy daily with the help of their Physical therapist, Aides, and parents.  Their therapy animal’s help to improve their social, emotional, and cognitive function, as well as an excellent motivational tool.Katelyn in 5 years old.  At two months old she suffered a 30 minute cardiac arrest and several strokes.  This left her with brain damage that affects her gross motor skill like crawling, walking, and sitting.  As an infant a Neurologist even told us that Katelyn would never be able to do anything, another neurologist told us he expected to see a vegetable after seeing her MRI.  

For the first few years of her life she made painfully slow progress in all developmental areas.  She was in and out of hospitals, saw at least one doctor every week and went to therapy several times a week.  It was very draining on everyone. Then we made a decision to try doing alternative therapies, we stopped feeding her formula, stopped many of her medications, reduced her standard therapies.  We started pool therapy, hippotherapy (a type of horseback riding with a therapist), started feeding her blended real food through her feeding tube, and started using animals as motivation to do therapy in a fun and playful way. Since then she has been defying her doctors by doing things they never expected her to do.  

Now we work her therapy animals into as much of her therapy as we can.  She practiced standing with her chickens by feeding them treats through an opening she can only reach if she is standing, she practices using her walker by using it to go collect eggs, she does many of her stretching exercises outside with the chickens.  Her therapy animals have given her the motivation she needed to reach goals her doctors and therapist never thought she would achieve.

Lucas is 7 years old and has many medical problems that affect his cognitive, social, emotional, and physical abilities.  His chickens serve as a constant to him and help calm him down.  They also serve to improve his cognitive skills by using the chickens in his educational home program.

Due to a city ordinance that restricts full size chickens we have asked the city for a variance to allow us to keep a small flock of chickens on our large city lot.  We have agreed to follow all the other ordinances pertaining to pets within the city, including but not limited to, not allowing them to run at large, and keeping the coop clean and in sanitary condition.  Our 8 therapy chickens are currently housed across the street at the only urban farm in Perry.  Unfortunately the city has bullied the farm into relocating and our 8 therapy chickens will no longer be able to be house there.

UPDATE: The cities deadline for a response to our request for reasonable accommodations under the American with Disabilities Act has now expired.  City council member Karen Potter has been shut out of all the discussion and the Mayor Pro Tem will not respond to any of her emails or texts regarding the matter.  Karen Potter supports our efforts and encourages people to contact local officals and show support.  contact information for the mayor pro tem and council members can be found athttp://www.perry.mi.us/departments/council.shtmlNote: I have chosen not to share all my children’s medical diagnosis online to protect some of their privacy.  But I would like to add that their medical conditions are far from stable and both children will most likely continue to regress despite the use of therapies and medical intervention.  Our goal with the animal assisted therapy is to slow this regression as much as possible and give them the best chance of maintaining and growing their developmental abilities.

It seems that if the parents of the children are willing to keep the hens in a clean coop and be respectful of their neighbors, that allowing them to keep the adult-size hens for the happiness and wellbeing of their children is only a small concession for the city of Perry to make.

News stories about this:
Here are some comments that people have written on the petition:

"As a senior Chickens have helped me from depression". - Spring Lake, MI
"I am a teacher and an animal lover and I have seen how animals help with therapy and making kids happy and confident."

UPDATE - 7.31.13

An update written by the Mom of the special needs children:

This morning I was visited by the city zoning administrator. His job is to uphold the ordinances as written, and does not have the power to change them. He informed me that my children’s chicken are in direct violation of city ordinances and action will be taken against them. The city council and Mayor have continued to remain silent. They have the power to grant my request for accommodation and I have asked them to do so. Now I call on you, my supporters to please help get the city council and mayor to grant my request for accommodation. There is a city council meeting Tuesday Aug. 6th at 7:00 that I will be attending to ask the city council to grant my request. I would like to invite anyone and everyone to please come and show their support. Anyone from anywhere can come. I am also trying to find people who live in Perry to come and speak to the council and show their support. The more people the better.
You can also call and write the mayor pro tem and council members asking them to support my request. Please remember to be courteous when addressing council members as some of them are already in support of our request. Notably Council Member Karen Potter has signed this petition in her support. Their contact info is:
Mayor Pro-Tem James Huguelet: E-Mail: jim_aandgpc@yahoo.com
Council Member Tom Chaput E-Mail: tomchaput@tds.net
Council Member Greg Wekwert E-Mail: wekwertg@michigan.gov 
Council Member Jo Anne O’Berry E-Mail: oberryk9@tds.net
Council Member Karen Potter E-Mail: Karenpotter2006@yahoo.com
Council Member Karen Davis E-Mail: davisbill594@aol.com