Therapeutic poultry program has Points West Living thinking outside the nesting box

Raising chickens provides worthwhile, meaningful activity for seniors

Eleven-year-old Jake Pike and his chickens have inspired a terrific new program at Points West Living in Red Deer.

According to Points West general manager Tracy Sutherland, the idea came about after Jake came to visit his Grandpa and brought along half a dozen silky hens (“silky” is a chicken breed).

The birds were a big hit with the residents. And Sutherland thought this might be a good basis for a therapeutic poultry program.

As Jake’s mom Kathy Pike says, “it’s thinking outside the nesting box.”

Points West has received a chicken licence from the City of Red Deer, which will allow them to keep a small coop with four birds. Caring for the chickens will give residents the benefits of meaningful activity, and Points West Living Red Deer would love the community to be involved.

“This is all so consistent with the Eden Alternative we follow as our model of care,” Sutherland said. “People need to have meaningful activity, a reason to get up and get going. And they also need a lifestyle that gives them contact with plants, animals and children.”

Kathy says she sees an immediate response from residents when Jake and his chickens visit. “I noticed residents that maybe didn’t get up very often being active, bending down to pick up chickens and talk and sing to them. And they had smiles on their faces,” she said.

Jake raises chickens on the family farm near Bentley and is active in his local 4-H club. Although he already has some experience raising chickens, he is able to learn from the Points West residents.

“One man talked about how to hatch eggs in the incubator, and what kind of humidity I need. All these things that I need to learn about incubators, because he grew up with them,” Jake said.

That two-way interaction is exactly the way Sutherland loves to see the Hen Power program work. “Children mean so much to our seniors but it’s beneficial for Jake as well,” she said. “He can see the participation in the seniors, and he builds a rapport with them.

“He’s a very well-raised young man, so he’s very polite and generous with our seniors. It’s really a win-win situation for all of us.”

If you know something about chickens and would like to help out, Sutherland says she’d love to hear from you. “There might be some expertise in the community that we can use. It could also be a chance for people to come in and see what we’re doing,” she said.

 

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