You don’t have to be a spring chicken to enjoy looking after hens, as residents at a sheltered home in Bamburgh are discovering.
Plucky ex-battery hens are enjoying a new lease of life this Easter at older people’s housing charity Abbeyfield’s Armstrong House, where residents are learning to care for the new arrivals, as well as tucking into freshly-laid eggs.
Keeping a pet is often not an option for elderly people when they move into sheltered housing. But the Abbeyfield Society believes animal companionship can help alleviate loneliness, provide essential interaction and give residents a new interest.
Aptly named Armstrong resident Joan Bird said: “We have been so pleased to take the hens in. They are a real talking point and have already brought us great pleasure.”
One unexpected side effect of the hens’ arrival is that the residents and volunteers have had to step up their knitting.
“Quite a few of the hens arrived with big bald patches from living in battery conditions, so some of the wonderful volunteers who give their time to Abbeyfield have joined me in knitting jackets to keep the balder chickens warm,” Mrs Bird explained. “Their feathers will grow back, but our little jackets will help keep them warm until they do.”
The Abbeyfield Society believes there are tangible medical benefits to keeping hens and other pets in their homes and sheltered houses. As well as helping to reduce anxiety and encouraging a common interest amongst residents, the charity cites respected Australian research that shows a link between pet ownership and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Paula Lingwood, manager at Abbeyfield’s Armstrong House, said: “The hens certainly have put a spring in the step of our residents, many of whom have fond memories of keeping chickens when they were younger. I must confess we haven’t taken their blood pressure to see whether the Australian theory works, but the smiles on our residents’ faces when they care for the chickens says it all.”