Dogs and cats come to mind when you think of a therapy animal. But a chicken? That’s a new one on most people!
The benefits of, say, a guide dog or a dog trained to assist with specific tasks in the home are easy to understand. Still, chickens can be a powerful therapeutic tool for those battling isolation, loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
Individuals can keep chickens at home and are an affordable pet therapy option for people with a backyard. Therapy Chickens also live in retirement communities and nursing homes.
Welcome to the world of therapy chickens!
The Calming Effect of Therapy Chickens
Chickens are the secret weapon of therapy animals. Here are just some of the many positive impacts they can have on different people.
Chickens are Calming
Unlike sole animals such as a cat or dog, fowl live as a flock. There is something indescribably peaceful about their collective behaviors as they forage for grain and potter about pecking and chatting to one another.
Chickens all have unique personalities and a social hierarchy with lots of different humorous and entertaining behaviors.
Chickens Encourage You To Go Out Into the Fresh Air
A dog only needs walking once a day. A cat never. Chickens require attendance and care several times a day and encourage keepers outdoors into the fresh air.
Exercise is a commonly used method of therapy; for those that resist it, keeping chickens necessitates movement without the stress of exercising.
The feel, smell, and sound of chickens assails the senses and provides many holistic benefits.
For older people who may remember hens at home when they were children, the value of this connection with their past is priceless – this has been used to good advantage in retirement homes and care centers.
For many older adults, children and other family members can be inaccessible or simply too busy with their own lives. Chickens give you a reason to get up in the morning.
Helping a flock thrive and grow is satisfying and fun.
A Non-Allergic Option
If fur brings you out with a rash or allergic symptoms, then a cat or dog may not be for you. Chickens are an excellent therapy choice in this situation.
Chickens are naturally hypoallergenic, and their keepers are sneeze-free!
The Laws Surrounding Therapy Chickens
The laws surrounding chickens therapy are complicated, and there are local laws and federal regulations to consider.
Federal law describes a service animal as one that can be trained individually to perform tasks for someone with a disability. Chickens cannot be classed as service animals but can still be a therapy pet or Emotional Support Animal if they assist with a defined need.
The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act governs the use of service animals for disabled individuals. A service animal under the act is defined as a dog, and the legislation does not support other species other than the somewhat surprising exception of miniature horses.
State Laws Concerning Backyard Chickens
Whatever the reason for keeping chickens at your home, state laws or ordinances govern backyard birds. The regulations cover whether or not you will need a permit, how many chickens you can keep, and how much land you need.
You might need planning permission, and the coop may need to be registered or inspected.
Some locations ban the keeping of all fowl, regardless of the reason or classification of the birds.
Animal Welfare Laws
The laws regulating poultry welfare are few and far between in the US, and there are no federal laws that protect chickens and which owners must adhere to.
There is plenty of access to good husbandry information if you are new to raising birds online and in book format. Internet forums can help newbies and are an excellent place to ask questions and seek advice on specific topics and problems.
Fair Housing Act
People with an ESA letter will have protection for their chickens under the Fair Housing Act. This act states that assistance pets cannot be classified as pets and become subject to additional fees, nor can they be excluded from properties with a ‘no pets’ policy.
How To Register Your Therapy Chickens
Therapy foul can be registered as an ESA or Emotional Support Animal. This pet or animal provides therapeutic benefits to the owner through companionship and affection, a different classification to service animals.
Emotional Support Animal registration or certification can provide protection and advantages in certain situations, including public places.
An ESA has legal rights, allowing them more freedom; registration can help keep chickens in a position that a pet or livestock could never obtain.
Qualifying for an Emotional Support Animal
If you struggle with defined problems like chronic stress, panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, or depression, you may qualify as someone who can register for an ESA.
Many mental health conditions and disorders can trigger a qualification, so discuss this with a mental health professional. A therapist’s assessment depends on how the condition hinders your lifestyle.
Issuing an Emotional Animal Support Letter
Registration is free, and if you qualify, you will get an emotional support animal letter that can protect your therapy hens in certain situations.
Always keep your documentation in case you need to prove the authenticity of your therapy hens.
Chickens for therapy are one to consider if keeping a dog or cat is not for you.
Chickens offer an alternative experience to the more regular Emotional Assistance Animals with many advantages, such as being cheaper than a dog.
They are also perfect for companionship and support for those with fur allergies.
Don’t underestimate the power of hen therapy. The calming process of raising and tending to any living thing provides an outlet for stress and anxiety.