The Chook House Challenge (Community story)

Community story

By Joy O’Connor, Nurse Unit Manager at Kiewa Valley House, Alpine Health Mount Beauty Victoria  ©

Joy has a wonderful story to share about introducing chickens into the backyard of their nursing home.

Our project began with an idea! Previously, I had attended a three day seminar in Albury on dementia and heard and met Jane Verity for the first time. From this meeting formed the idea; followed by our good fortune in being left some money by someone who loved her garden and animals.

Introducing a chicken house and real chickens was a challenge that needed to be thoroughly documented, evaluated, and every possible aspect investigated.

First, we approached senior management. (Later, they would laugh often as I gave updates on how we were travelling.) Next, we had to design, cost and gain approval from the infection control manager.

Then we consulted the nursing and domestic staff. Many thought: ‘what a good idea.’ A few said: ‘I’m not cleaning up the mess!’ but enough believed in the project to give it a go.

We purchased a cubby house and a fox proof pen was built.

The benefits:

1. Residents are able to genuinely care for something real and feel needed and useful.

2. Residents who generally stay inside are now going outside to see their chooks.

3. Increased resident and staff morale.

Things to consider:

  • As with all animals, unexpected deaths can occur. (Poor Miss Prissy died several days after arrival – cause unknown)
  • Develop a foolproof feeding roster. (The chickens never missed out, but sometimes got too much!)
  • Expect the occasional carpet cleaning venture.

Our future plan is to obtain permission from every resident or their representative/s to cook with the eggs as an activity!………..Eggcellent!