By Sam Jack
Four pet chickens are adding to the quality of life for residents of Haysville’s nursing home, Diversicare.
The chickens live in Diversicare’s courtyard. Since their arrival almost a year ago, residents have enjoyed watching their antics during meals and activities in the dining room.
“One disappeared, and I got a little worried about her, but then I finally saw her the other day,” said resident Lora Lee Bramblett. “I like to watch them; they’re relaxing. Everybody likes to watch them.”
Two residents, Yagub Tede and Robert Jeter, have been helping activity director Karen Nachtigal take care of the poultry.
Tede, a Sudanese refugee who owned more than a dozen chickens before coming to the United States, lets the birds out of their coop every morning. Jeter, who uses a wheelchair, interacts with the chickens as much as he can, feeding them by hand and helping to tidy up after them.
“I’ll go out there even if it’s raining or cold,” Jeter said. “They almost expect someone to go out there. I like them, and I like to make sure they get good care.”
Nachtigal said Diversicare got the chickens at the suggestion of a former resident. She has enjoyed them as much as anybody.
“Whenever I’m outside, they’re with me. They’re my babies,” she said. “All these guys can tell you that they make me really happy.”
Chickens are known to decrease feelings of social isolation and loneliness among senior residents of nursing homes, Nachtigal noted. Reductions in stress lead to reduced pain and improved mobility. In addition to chickens, residents get regular chances to interact with cats and dogs. A therapy dog visits two or three times a week, and the Kansas Humane Society brings both cats and dogs about once a month.