At Kootenay senior’s centre, ‘Chicken TV’ enriches lives

Trio of chickens bringing unexpected joy to seniors at Castlegar residence

Ellen Demers had chickens growing up, and shares her ice cream with these ones. “They’re not spoiled, they’re loved.”                                Photo: John Boivin

Ellen Demers had chickens growing up, and shares her ice cream with these ones. “They’re not spoiled, they’re loved.” Photo: John Boivin

It’s a sunny, hot afternoon, but a group of elderly women are outside, looking through a fence at an enclosed space in the courtyard of their seniors home.

Inside the pen, a trio of chickens are doing what chickens do — scratching, pecking the ground, and softly vocalizing.

“It’s warm today, they’re kind of exhausted, it’s so hot,” says Ellen Demers, as a black pullet pecks at a handful of oats she’s offering through the wire. “See how they’re drinking that water?”

Demers, who has lived at Castlegar’s Talarico Place for two years, says being able to be around the chickens means a lot to her.

“I came from a farm when I was young, and I just love those things, I just love them,” she says. “They always seem to come to me, and I enjoy that.”

Demers isn’t the only one who loves the chickens. A few yards away, inside the air-conditioned building, other seniors are peering through the windows to catch a glimpse of the birds.

At Talarico Place, the animals have become the centre of attention for the seniors, the gossip at breakfast and the go-to topic between residents passing time.

“To hear the residents talking about them in the dining room in the morning — ‘Where are the chickens? How are the chickens?’ — it’s been amazing,” says Kelly-Anne Gyurkovits, the recreation co-ordinator at the home.

Gyurkovits says she first read about chickens being used as seniors therapy a few years ago, and started to lobby her administrator to let her give it a try.

“At first the staff thought we were out of our minds, saying this wouldn’t work, there’s no way we could do this,” says Gyurkovits. “I kind of put a bug in [my boss’] ear a few years ago, and she thought I was kidding.

“And then she went away on holidays, and when she got back, I said ‘we have this all organized,’ and she said ‘let’s give it a shot.’”

The chicks arrived one year ago, just a couple days old. At first they had a small enclosure, and wandered freely around the courtyard. But, when the chickens started doing what chickens do after eating, it became clear they needed to be in an enclosed space.

This year, with the help of Mitchell’s Supply and Western Industrial Contracting, they built a proper fenced run, and a little coop. Cluckingham Palace is now the heart of Talarico’s community.

“We call it Chicken TV,” says Gyurkovits. “If it’s not hot out here, there’s a lineup to see them and feed them. We have people in the dining room saying ‘can you move that chair for me? I can’t see the chickens.’

“I’ve been working with seniors for 30 years, and this is the best thing I have ever done. By far.”

Gyurkovits’ boss, Stacey Thin, says having the chickens meets with the institution’s greater goal, to create a rich, healthy, loving place for seniors. The path to that goal is creating interactions and building seniors relationships with animals, children and the community.

“I think chickens bring spontaneity, a life-worth-living to residents… they provide something for people to talk about, interact with, reminiscing about their past, caring for them, ” says Thin. “We’re providing care for them, but they need to provide care for other things.

“It’s bringing them back some purpose, some joy in their lives.”

The birds are low-maintenance animals, and eat a lot of table scraps from the kitchen and staff’s homes. Cleaning the tiny coop is not much of a burden either.

Gyurkovits says the chickens help residents connect with each other, with staff, and with their past.

“It’s just a joy. It brings back memories and all those things they did as children, or chores as adults.

“We have a generation of people here who didn’t necessarily have an indoor dog or an indoor cat, they had farm animals,” she says. “That’s what they are used to, that’s their thing. This is something they can identify with.”

As far as Gyurkovits and Thin know, they are the only seniors facility in the province providing Chicken TV.

But she doesn’t think they’ll be the last.

And what about the side benefits — eggs?

“We get three a day,” says Gyurkovits. “We can’t serve them to the residents, so we sell a dozen or so a week as a fundraiser.”

It’s been long enough in the sun, for both chickens and humans, so Ellen Demers and friends retreat to the cool interior of the home. But she’ll be back as soon as she can, she says, with some treats for them. She likes to share her ice cream with the birds — a chicken favourite, apparently.

“They’re not spoiled,” she says. “They’re loved.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Chickens are growing in popularity as therapy birds for seniors. Submitted photo

Chickens are growing in popularity as therapy birds for seniors. Submitted photo

‘Cluckingham Palace’ was built this year with the aid of some local businesses. Submitted photo

‘Cluckingham Palace’ was built this year with the aid of some local businesses. Submitted photo

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Cancer Care Unit at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, April 14, will benefit from a $100,000 donation from Prince Rupert Port Authority towards renovations. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Port Authority donates $100,000 to hospital renovations

Cancer Care Unit at PRRH to undergo upgradesat PRRH to undergo upgrades

Teresa Van sorts bottles at the April 10 Rainmakers Interact Club bottle drive to earn funds for six Seabin garbage collection units for harbours and waterfronts in the local region. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Bottle drive successful with more collected than can be sorted in one day

Rainmakers Interact Club supports local community with funds toward ocean garbage collection units

Flights are to resume to Prince Rupert and Sandspit airports under an Air Canada and federal government $5.9 billion agreement that was reached on April 12. A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
$5.879 billion agreement between Air Canada and Fed’s will assist YPR in re-opening

Prince Rupert Regional Airport to reopen flights by June 1st, if not earlier

BC Housing townhouses on Kootenay Ave. were demolished during March to make way for new affordable residential units by Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Despite a recent reduction in units project will still be able to house many

Prince Rupert Indigenous Housing Society says 60 units is still the plan

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read