Posted: June 15, 2018
I told a friend of mine that at Cappella of Grand Junction we have 3 chickens that we were taking care of. He immediately said, “Sarah, you hate chickens, why on earth would you get chickens?”
Well, I guess I did have strong opinions on chickens throughout my life. If I really think about my history of hating chickens, it started when I was five years old. I was left with my great grandma many times as a child, and I was in charge of collecting the eggs from her chicken coop. At five years old, chickens can be terrible beasts with sharp beaks and tenacious claws. Also, they smell bad. My father never helped me learn to appreciate chickens. As farmer’s kids, we actively participated in 4-H. Dad told us we could raise any animal for show, but no chickens. I never saw chickens as anything but a tasty meal entrée. In all fairness, I saw most of the farm animals we raised as future food. I did not know I had such strong feelings about chickens until later in life when my co-workers starting raising them as pets.
Chickens as pets? I could not stand it! They are farm animals, not pets! I held to this belief and even told my co-workers that they were crazy. Why would you want to raise chickens as pets? I could not comprehend the idea. I did not want to. I told anyone that would listen about the dangers of raising chickens and getting salmonella. I advocated against chickens as pets fervently. So, why did I change my mind suddenly?
Well, it was a YouTube video that portrayed residents at a nursing home who were taking care of chickens and describing how their chickens were adding purpose to their lives. I remember that has my great grandma became frail, she still was able to provide for the chickens. I realized that in a rural area like Grand Junction, Colorado, a lot of our elders had chickens during their youth or have taken care of them at one point in time. I did a little research and realized that they were a great animal to take care of for residents in long-term care communities.
So, I went rogue and talked with my team and that week. We were given a brand-new chicken coop and purchased three chickens. The day we got the chickens we also had a WWII Veteran become part of our Memory Support Neighborhood. He was sad to no longer be at his previous home.
Guess what? When he was a kid, he used to raise chickens. When I handed him a little chick, his eyes moistened up and he talked to the chick like he had had her all his life. He demonstrated to all of us how to hold the chickens and pet them. He showed me how much chicken scratch to feed them and even started singing to the chickens. It was the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time. As the weeks of chicken ownership have gone on, the other residents have shared incredible stories about raising chickens and or working with chickens. One resident even named the chickens upon their arriving. He named them, “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.”
The chickens are starting to venture outside of their chicken coop in our secured courtyard. Sometimes, it looks like they are dancing to the music in the courtyard, and they make us all laugh. It is getting harder to catch them and if you get a chance, come by to see them. We might need different names for them, as they might just become the Cappella of Grand Junction chicken pets. Maybe. It is still a hard concept for me to comprehend… chickens as pets.