'Therapy Chickens' helping elderly people at local senior living facility

You've heard of therapy dogs, but what about therapy chickens?

A local senior living facility has added a hen house that's looked after by residents with memory loss. The program originated in Europe, but it's been adopted in Romeoville at Senior Star at Weber Place.

"Anybody else would have looked at me like I was crazy and they embraced it," said Jennifer Boonstra, the Memory Care Programs Director who "hatched" the idea.

Boonstra says the facility will care for two chickens, Snowflake and Licorice, rented from a local farmer, for five months.

Resident Dodee Sergeant looks forward to holding the chickens.

"These are pets, that's what they are. I mean they're not just chickens," said Sergeant.

"The idea of pets is not foreign to her at all and she understands the importance of it and all that," said Patti Braglia, Sergeant's daughter.

Residents collect the hen's eggs, feed them and give them affection. They can't eat the eggs because they are not pasteurized, but their shells are used to fertilize the community garden. Boonstra says the hens have given the residents purpose, something to look forward to and a way to be useful and give back.

"We know that Alzheimer’s, dementia it is a disease that unfortunately there is no cure for and it is a progressive disease.  But what we can do is to enrich the lives of them while they're here," Boonstra said.

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