The benefits of pet therapy are well-established in eldercare, though one New York provider is taking things a little further than just cats and dogs.
Long Island-based Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation recently rented a batch of live chickens, aiming to reduce residents’ stress and boost spirits. The 527-bed facility did so as part of the “RentACoop” program, which enables providers to lease chickens for four- or 12-week periods to bring joy into residents’ lives.
Members of the facility’s therapeutic recreation team laid their plans out to leadership earlier this year, and the idea hatched this fall. President and CEO Michael Rosenblut said he’s been happy with the results.
“My absolute favorite part of this program is visiting residents as they interact with the chicks, and seeing their faces light up,” he said.
RentACoop delivered two hatched chicks — called Peanut Butter and Jelly by residents after a naming contest — in mid-October, along with a baby chicken home called the “Brooder.” Six fresh eggs also were part of the package. They were placed in an incubator to hatch a few weeks after delivery.
Parker Jewish’s Chicken Coop Club meets once a week to allow facility residents to monitor the chicks’ growth. With the program set to end in mid-November, the chickens will return to the farm, where they’ll be raised to lay eggs.
RentACoop was started by Diana and Tyler Phillips in 2012, a few years after they graduated from college. Today, it has dozens of clients on the East Coast, which also include schools and other institutions. It costs about $220 for four weeks and comes with an incubator, fertile eggs, two chicks, the Brooder, feed, bedding and a handbook.
Parker therapy and recreation staffer Alycia D’avino said it’s been a success so far.
“It’s a great activity and I know that it really relieves stress and boredom,” she said. “Plus, it gives residents a sense of purpose and connection with nature.”