Posted Jun. 27, 2014 @ 9:42 am
Long-term care facilities are making strides in providing fun and innovative activities for the residents they cater to.
One such facility is Pine Village Continuing Care Retirement Community. Culture change is a nationwide movement to make long-term care facilities more like a home rather than a hospital, said Becki Yoder, the Pine Village director of wellness, aquatics and volunteerism. In the spirit of this movement, Yoder created what she calls the Backyard Chicken Project. The project is aimed at making Pine Village residents feel more at home.
Yoder lives on a farm with a multitude of animals and appreciates the rewards they provide.
“Historically, just a chicken has provided so much for a family, the eggs, meat and companionship,” Yoder said. “I wanted to bring some of those benefits to our residents.”
But before she could get her newfangled idea off the ground, she had to do a little convincing. With a little prodding, the Pine Village administrator, Jim Huxman, fell prey to Yoder’s enthusiasm and allowed her to begin the project.
The next step was to get fertilized eggs. The Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch, Lindsborg, donated 24 eggs to the cause. These eggs were incubated for 21 days, starting March 19, in the Walter Wellness and Goering Activity Center. The center is a multi-purpose addition to the Pine Village facility. Within the wellness center, the eggs matured while residents monitored their progress via an in-house blog. The chicks began to hatch around Easter.
Six baby chicks were then placed in a brooder, a heated enclosure for infant fowl. The brooder also was at the wellness center. The chicks were cared for in the brooder for five weeks, at which point they were moved into their more permanent home, a chicken tractor in the Pine Village courtyard. A tractor is a bottomless pen built to allow the birds to scratch and eat off of the ground.
The residents of Pine Village have enjoyed raising the chickens, and, for many, the experience has brought back memories of their lives on farms.
The residents do “chicken chores,” as they are called, at about 6:15 a.m., and the more independent residents complete the chores on the weekends. The chores involve giving feed and water to the chickens and moving the tractor every day to a fresh patch of grass.
While this has been an activity that allows residents to think of times gone by, it has also been a learning experience for the younger generations who staff the facility.
Many of the staff have not experienced life on a farm the way their patients have. This project has allowed them to not only get a taste of that lifestyle, but also connect with the residents on a new level.
“These chickens have been so educational for the younger staff here,” Yoder said. “They are getting to see how much the chickens have to offer.”
There are five chickens housed at the facility, two Barred Rock roosters and three Cornish rock females. The residents and staff are now waking up to the cock-a-doodle-doo of the roosters, and by August, the chickens should be producing eggs. Yoder said Pine Village likely will use the eggs the chickens yield in its cooking class.
This has been a beneficial project in so many ways, she said.
“Culture change isn’t just about changing one thing,” Yoder said. “It’s about changing everything, our vocabulary, the physical aspects of the facility and how we operate. This project has been fun for everybody involved, and I’m happy that it affected so many people in so many ways.”