Our Therapy Chickens
Our outdoor therapy space houses our chicken coop. The idea of chickens being used in therapeutic settings has gained momentum in recent years. They boost people’s mood, combat loneliness and help support emotional and social competencies. These human-animal interactions can add playfulness and lightness to sessions than can build rapport and provide support in therapeutic goals.
Animals offer non-judgemental companionship. There is a reciprocal relationship of tolerance and respect. All interactions follow the same principles for the development of empathetic healthy human relationships. Just like humans, chickens are sentient beings that bring their own unique selves to the process. They have their own quirks and differences. Their own attitudes and personalities. They are intricate creatures. These differences in both humans and animals create an environment of acceptance. The therapist, the client, and the animal all accept the others as they are.
Animals can also support the practice of social connection and awareness by practicing paying attention to the chicken’s behavior. For instance, if you move too quickly the hen might feel startled. This can foster a conversation about building trust and respecting boundaries by moving slowly, or speaking in a gentle voice. We can take social cues from animals and can learn to apply them to our own interactions.
These opportunities for connection also have the potential to help people become more empathetic towards themselves, others, animals, and our environment. Learning to recognize stress signals and body language and how that implies certain feelings as well as ways to adjust our own behaviors to ensure the comfort of others is foundational to understanding the perspectives of others, lowering defensiveness, and learning to manage one’s own emotional reactions.