Gauteng Smallholder October 2015 - Page 26

POULTRY From page 23 personality of her own. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens will confirm the feel-good effect hens have on their owners. This is probably due to increased oxytocin, which is a stress-lowering chemical in the body that is released when one hugs a loved one, or pets a dog or cat. The elderly respond very well to programmes such as HenPower, where small flocks of chickens have been introduced to retirement homes. Men in particular become involved in the care of the hens. In the UK they are referred to as 'henshioners'. Other programmes have introduced some hens in the grounds of homes caring for patients with dementia. Terry Golson, a “chicken captain” at just such a programme says, “having chickens in the backyard is like looking at the ocean. There's a lot of movement and at the same An Australian family poses with more than 1 000 rescued layers. time it feels calming. What could be better for memoryloss patients than this constant ebb and flow in which they can engage? It's a perfect match.” A quite different reason for keeping chickens is put forward by Candace Ristic, who runs the Chicken Rescue & Rehabilitation NPO in Gauteng. “We are always looking for loving homes for laid-out battery chickens and other hens that have been saved from appallingly inhumane circumstances. We also work with the SPCA, who contact us to help them to find homes for these distressed hens.” But the organisation does not allow the hens to go to a new home without their undertaking an on-site inspection of the property where they will be housed. They also offer detailed advice to the new owners, so that the transition to the happier circumstances can be as untraumatic for the chickens as possible. They draw attention to the fact that at the point of rescue, the hen will be tired, immune-compromised and thus vulnerable to infections, stressed and frightened, thirsty and hungry and possibly ill. Very often they will have sore feet, with nails that may be too long for comfortable walking or they might have swollen legs. They are likely to be terrified of open spaces, strange noise, pets, children and anything new or different – even an aluminium or stainless steel water dish with a moving reflection can be terrifying. Many will be unable to handle direct sunlight for a few days. Continued on page 26 24