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Chickens are helping senior citizens fight loneliness in a major way

A few little chooks are making big changes in the lives of elderly patients, helping them fight depression and dementia.

By Jessica Salter
31 Oct 2014


Owen Turnbull is giving a tiny five-day-old chick a bath in the sink of a communal launderette. The chick, which is chirping away as he talks to it, is one of four orphans. ‘Their mam died three days ago,’ he says, in his soft Geordie accent. ‘I found her when I went to feed them. I was sad about losing her – I do get attached to them.’

For the past nine years Turnbull, 84, has lived in Wood Green, sheltered-accommodation bungalows in Gateshead, near Newcastle, with his 82-year-old wife, Bell (for whom he is the main carer), along with 70 other residents, 13 hens and 15 chicks. Every morning he gets up at 6.30 to clean out the four coops directly outside his bungalow, change the hens’ water and feed them. Every night except Tuesday (when he has a night off) he puts them to roost at dusk.

The chickens, which range from Derbyshire redcaps to pretty grey bluebells (16 breeds in total), are all named after women who live at Wood Green (Turnbull, who has kept chickens for 50 years, named ‘the most beautiful one’, a silver-laced wyandotte, after his wife). The eggs are sold (£1.25 for six) in the central common room, where alongside activities based around the hens at various times of the week, and endless strong tea for residents and volunteers, there is an incubator for hatching chicks.

Read the complete article here.

Also See: Chickens are moving into nursing homes.