RM+V Therapy Chickens

(Video narrated and produced by RM+V’s own Debbie Graham, Villa Director of Community Life)

UPDATE: July 28, 2016

RM+V’s broody hen hatches her chicks!

Who would have thought that these feathered animals would bring so much joy and wonder into our resident’s lives? With the beautiful weather outside many of our residents visit the chicken everyday with their families and friends.

“Where is the black-feathered chicken?”

“What is a broody hen?”

“Are all chicken eggs fertilized?”

“Did you hear that there is a possibility of new baby chicks hatching?”

These were the many questions heard and discussed around RM+V. Many residents and families shared their answers with one another, some just listened while smiling and nodding their head, while others were excited to learn something new.

So where is the black-feathered chicken? After listening to our true experts (our residents and families) about raising chickens, RM+V quickly realized that our black-feathered chicken is a broody hen (she wants to hatch her eggs and start a family).

So were the eggs fertilized underneath her? Well, unfortunately no. So with a little help, fertilized eggs were placed in her nesting box, and after 21 days we are happy to announce that we have added two new feathered friends to our family! The momma hen could not be happier and our residents and families are so excited to go see our new baby chicks.

– Michelle Diesing, RNAC

UPDATE: October 1, 2015

Our chickens have been at Rochester Manor + Villa for a few weeks now and everyone is loving having them here!  

Throughout our campus one can hear the residents, family and staff comparing opinions about which one is their favorite and what we should name them. Families sit outside with their loved ones in front of the chicken coop under a shaded tree sharing their stories about chickens they had growing up. These conversations spark more memories and seem to open a gateway to even more memorable stories from their lives.

Maryann Putt – one of our residents – who helped pick out the chickens, said that she used to have a farm. Looking all around and smiling as the sun shone down on her, she told us fondly that it’s been a long time since she’d been on a farm. A university study confirms that the elderly who are engaged in the care of chickens show improved well being, and decreased loneliness and depression”.

Here at Rochester Manor + Villa one gentleman is known as our ‘bird man’ and since I was the ‘chicken girl’ I knew we needed to meet. We took a walk outside feeding the chickens and birds together, which led to many conversations from his life as a young adult, his career and his family. There were brief periods of quietness where we would just sit and watch the chickens and birds walk around scratching the ground below them.

Terry Golson, a poultry expert stated, “The wonderful thing about chickens is there’s always something going on, there’s always constant movement, it’s calming”.

Moments later the conversation would start up again. As we laughed together and shared more stories with one another, the contemplative reflection on ‘why chickens’ could make a difference was felt and realized. So now when I hear the question ‘why chickens?’, I just stop and smile. I think of all the conversations that have been started, all the memories being shared with one another and new friendships that are forming because of our new feathered friends.

– Michelle Diesing, RNAC

Beaver County Times Coverage: June 15, 2015

Council allows Rochester Manor and Villa to try raising therapy chickens

By Jenny Wagner Posted: Monday, June 15, 2015 9:15 pm

(Reposted with permission of the Beaver County Times.)

ROCHESTER — At Rochester Manor and Villa, the chickens will come before the eggs.

Residents at the Virginia Avenue nursing and personal care home will be allowed to have three to six hens for therapeutic purposes, after Rochester council on Monday approved an exception to an ordinance on a 60-day experimental basis.

Activity director Stacy Hoydich initially asked council members for permission for residents to hatch and raise the chickens, but she said they now will start with adult birds during the trial period.

Hoydich and nurse Michelle Diesing told council members that sharing in the care and development of the chickens would create a sense of usefulness for residents. While dogs and cats are more commonly used for therapeutic purposes, Hoydich said chickens will offer unique benefits to residents.

Especially for people with dementia, Hoydich said, they can be a “wonderful sensory tool,” sparking memories and conversations.

“People who can’t remember what they had for lunch, can remember the type of chickens that they had growing up,” she said, noting that many of the Manor and Villa residents were farmers.

Chapter 94 of the Rochester Code pertains to wild and farm animals and states that, “No person shall keep or permit to be kept on his premises any farm animal, whether gratuitously or for a fee,” and, “No person shall keep or permit to be kept any wild or farm animal as a pet.”

A farm animal is defined by the borough as, “Any live horse, sheep, pig, chicken, goat, cow, duck, fowl or any other similar animal usually associated with a farm environment.”

Councilman Keith Jackson, who voted against the exception, along with councilman Daniel Maier, expressed concerns about changing the laws, and whether council would have to allow others to keep animals in the borough.

Hoydich said the chickens will be housed in a locked penned area in an “inconspicuous” grassy area along the Hull Street side of the building. The chickens will be a small variety known as Bantams, and the Manor and Villa does not plan to have a rooster, Diesing said.

“The area would be kept clean and the chickens will be well cared for,” Hoydich said in a June 4 letter to council requesting the exception.

If council does not permit the program to continue at the end of the trial period, Hoydich said the chickens will go to another home.