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 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chickens Even Appear on BBC Program: Would I Lie to You?

Does Kirsty Young, Scottish television and radio presenter, name her chickens after famous newsreaders? Find out in this BBC segment from Would I Lie to You?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Keeping Eggs Fresh

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs                                                Shobe Biz Communications

Remember that vintage Volkswagen ad where too many people are stuffed into a Volkswagen Bug?

Sometimes when I open the door to my spare refrigerator in the garage I think of that ad.  Dozens of vintage eggs cartons filled with organic, multi-colored eggs are stacked to the top of every shelf. It looks as if the refrigerator was laying the eggs itself.

I usually try to sell the eggs a day or so after they are laid. I even make presents of the eggs by bringing them as hostess gifts. But, sometimes I'm so busy with  life that the eggs simply stack up. Wasting the precious output of my happy hens simply isn't an option.

Here is a decent article (get past the opening, get to the facts, and ignore some of the grammatical errors) about the many ways that you can preserve your eggs: Twelve Ways to Store Chicken Eggs to Keep Their Freshness by Fahran Sheikh.

Some of the options that Skeikh  includes are:

1.  A blooming good idea: Don't wash unwashed eggs. The eggs have a bloom on them that keeps them fresher longer.

2.  The ostrich technique: Bury unwashed eggs in dry sand.

3.  The beach-goers technique: Coat them with mineral oil.

4.  The "I'm all mixed-up" technique: Beat them like scrambled eggs, put them into airtight containers and freeze them.

The only one I've tried so far is not washing the egg until I am ready to use it. I've noticed that the bloom does help the egg stay fresh much longer.

With 12 new hens just two months away from laying,  it's time to start exploring my options, again, for keeping the girls' eggs fresh. I think I'll start first with my own technique: cleaning out the spare refrigerator.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Royal Nod to Chickens

An Engraving of Queen Victoria's Poultry House at Home Park, Windsor (1854)

It's not just celebrities who have a fascination with chickens. Throughout history, royalty has been smitten with chickens as well. Just take a gander at Queen Victoria's royal chicken abode. Pretty nice digs for poultry plumage! 

And, it seems like the Brits are still rousing up the history of chickens--ever since chicken bones were discovered in an Iron Age pot at West Deeping in Lincolnshire. It seems, according to an article in House and Home by Jonathon Foyle that "a research collaboration between Bournemouth and Nottingham Universities" called “The Chicken Coop” "will bring together anthropologists, archaeologists and even theologists to understand the ascent of chicken husbandry." 

Other royals have housed their chickens in grand palaces. At Versailles, there was the Royal Menagerie (1664) and a Russian aviary was built for Tsar Paul I. 

My coop on the top of my hill for my fifteen chickens is the more proletariat of the coop estates. But, with all of its avian wire and redwood panels, it seems to do the job just fine. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Birth

The Goepoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943) - Salvador Dali
This time of year signifies "the hatch" and this painting, The Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943), is a fascinating Dali that represents a hatch. 

According to the Dali Museum's website: "The man breaking from the egg emerges out of the "new" nation, America, signaling a global transformation. Africa and South America are both enlarged, representing the growing importance of the Third World, while Europe is being crushed by the man's hand, indicating its diminishing importance as an international power. The draped cloth above and below the egg represents the 'placenta' of the new nation, which, as Dali shows with a drop of blood, can only be born through much pain and suffering. An androgynous older figure stands in the foreground and points to the emerging man, acknowledging the birth of this global transformation. The cowering child with its long shadow- the 'Geopoliticus Child' of the title-represents this new age." 

Salvador Dali (1904-1989), a Spanish Catalin surrealist painter, was known for his eccentric ways and his paintings dripping with bizarre images. His artistic repertoire included film, photography, and sculpture. He collaborated with Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. His wife, Gala, acted as his business manager and they were together for over 50 years. 

It was my youngest brother who first introduced me to Dali's work when he showed meThe Persistence of Memory. I was in junior high and remember being both disgusted and fascinated by Dali. Who was this painter who rendered such deep meaning through such extraordinary images?

When I recently came across "The Geopoliticus Child..." painting, I was awestruck by Dali's "hatch". In Dali's painting, man emerges from the shell hand first, head still locked inside, feet pushing against the interior of the shell, struggling to break free. 

Isn't that how life goes? As we being to morph into better beings, our minds are still grasping onto what is familiar, unwilling to let go -- of memories, of moments, of fears built from past experiences.  We convince ourselves that we are "safer" in the darkness of our shells.

Yet, there is something inside of us that knows we can do better or be better. So, the hatch begins. First, we chirp inside our shells to let our family and friends know we need to be different. Then, we rock back-and-forth, creating a small earthquake of sorts, to see who is coming along with us.  Once we're in position with supportive family and friends, we begin tapping at our shell, at first weak, then stronger, until a tiny shaft of gentle light breaks through. The light intensifies as our shell begins to crack away. At last, we stand free, on wobbly feet, facing our new being.

"Hatching" hurts. It requires stamina, fortitude, patience, and faith. It shakes up everything we have known and pretended to be. It demands that we create a strong belief in ourselves and conviction to our newly-discovered authenticity. 

If you're considering a "hatch" but keep falling back into that place of fear, ask yourself which is scarier: The darkness of your shell or the light of a new beginning?

An Olive Egger Hatches                  copyright Shobe Biz Communications

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cracking Some Fun Facts About Eggs

Cracking the Eggs Facts Wide Open
There are a whole lot of facts about eggs that we don't know but are fun to learn.
For instance, did you know that the egg white contains 57% of the total egg's protein content and contains Vitamin B3, Vitamin B2, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur?

Elizabeth Woods, a doctor, has a few more fun facts about eggs in her article, Amazing Facts About Eggs.

The Hatch Has Begun

The Hatch                           copyright: Shobe Biz Communications
The Hatch has begun. I was walking through the family room and I heard some chirping coming from the incubator. Sure enough, I looked inside and there was an egg cracked from the pecking of a hatching chick. I upped the humidity in the incubator to the recommended 65% by pouring a bit more water in. I'm not sure how long it is going to take for the chick to break through.

Since the chick is hatching at the time when most Europeans are awakening from an evening slumber, I think it's only appropriate that this chick be named a French name. Any ideas?

(An interesting fact about newly-hatched chicks from Backyard ChickensDo not be in a hurry to take chicks out of the incubator. Gallinaceous birds, such as chickens, quail, and pheasants survive up to 3 days without feed or water. The yolk of the egg is drawn through the navel into the stomach of the baby bird before it hatches. That provided enough nourishment for the transitional period from the time the bird hatches, fluffs out, gains strength and becomes active enough to go out and seek food. Chicks continue to grow and develop in the incubator, before they receive food. Of course, they do not gain weight, but they do gain in stature, activity and use of their faculties.
They will instinctively be interested in drops of water, each other's toes, and other objects of possible experimentation. Do not assume from these evidences of interest that the chicks are hungry. It is simply nature's way of experimentation, exploration, and learning of the young. In general chicks are taken from the incubator after 24 hours. No harm is done if they are not taken out for 48 hours after they hatch.)