Chicken Therapy for the Soul

Eat Mor Cows!A few of my friends are therapy dogs. You know, the kind of dogs that get to be taken out a few times a week to help humans with whatever ails them.

From what they tell me, it’s a pretty good gig. You get a car ride, all the love you could want and a healthy dose of treats. Let’s face it, who’s going to say no to a patient wanting to give up a portion of her cheese sandwich? Certainly not Pumpkin or her owners.

So I’ve started to look into getting into the therapy game. Turns out that at my age, I should be getting therapy visits instead of giving them. Just know, ain’t nobody getting a piece of my cheese sandwich when they come for a visit.

Then I hear word is leaking out about all the benefits and that chickens are getting in on the game, too. No, not as treats to be eaten, but as the object of love and affection that should only go to canines. The Missoulian has the full details of this travesty.

You’ve heard of therapy dogs?

Meet a therapy chicken.

And a therapy Cornish game hen.

“I got them for my grandchildren,” Clairmont says, “but they’re so good with people, I thought, ‘Why not turn this into a positive?’ ”

She calls her therapy birds “Fowl Play.”

The visit to Polson Health and Rehabilitation was the first outing for Alex and Carlita, and seemed to go pretty well – although Alex quickly bonded with Gilham, and didn’t seem very interested in landing in anyone else’s lap for too long.

As Gilham stroked the rooster’s feathers with one hand, Alex stretched his neck out and rested it across Gilham’s other forearm, much like a puppy might. The bird got so relaxed he even snuggled his head between Gilham’s arm and chest, and snoozed for a bit.

“Most of your seniors were raised around chickens and cows,” she says. “Holding one (a chicken, we assume, and not a cow) can bring back memories for older people.”

“They develop so many human qualities if they’re around people,” she goes on. Raised otherwise, chickens are “dirty, mean and cannibalistic. If there’s a sick chicken in the henhouse, they’ll pick ‘em to pieces. But they’ll respond to tenderness and kindness if that’s how they’re raised. When I call them, they come.”

Clairmont has a couple of more gigs arranged at retirement homes and assisted living centers near Flathead Lake in the near future, and wants to take Alex and Carlita into classrooms when school starts up again next fall.

“They’re so used to people – I can’t believe how good they do,” Clairmont says.

While Alex settled in with Gilham, Carlita took a liking to Caleb Altit, who said he is 89 years old and raised chickens a long time ago in Idaho.

“It must be 50 years since I had anything to do with a chicken,” Altit said as he petted Carlita’s feathers.

“The ones my grandmother had chased me all over the place,” said another resident, Marsha Hunter, who became fond of Carlita. “I know one thing, I’ll never eat another Cornish game hen after today. Chicken, maybe, but not a Cornish game hen.”

Fortunately, neither was on Thursday’s menu.

I’ll admit I wouldn’t be a fan of Cornish game hen therapy. There’s too many bones to pick out of the little guy’s carcass.

Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian


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