If you keep chickens, your motivation might have come from any number of sources: for the fresh eggs, to teach your children where their food comes from, for the fertilizer, for the entertainment. Chickens do indeed offer all of these wonderful benefits and more. And as any doting chicken keeper will tell you, they also offer levels of companionship beyond what one could have ever dreamed. That’s why Equal Arts, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization, is partnering with hens to provide a more meaningful life for aging adults and those living with dementia.

In more than 40 care homes, Equal Arts’ program called HenPower engages residents in hen-keeping as a way to combat loneliness, encourage exercise and provide a renewed sense of purpose. The program is featured in the video that accompanies this article. Residents maintain the coops, feed the chickens and collect the eggs—they even make hen-themed art. When introduced to the idea of “hen therapy,” some residents were skeptical, but as they began developing relationships with the hens, they found it brought them more joy than they could have ever imagined.

Beyond that, chicken-keeping is even making the residents healthier. According to Equal Arts, residents report reduced agitation, reduced depression and reduced need for antipsychotic medications as a result of working with the hens. In a time of life when loss of spouse, loss of mobility and health issues can make one’s outlook more bleak, the cheerful clucking of a chicken companion can definitely add a ray of sunlight, fostering connections with others and the creativity from within.

Rachael Dupree is the former managing editor for Our Site. She grows food and medicine on her 50-acre farm near Lexington, Kentucky. When not out working her land, you can find her in her kitchen not following recipes, on her yoga mat in a satisfying pigeon pose, or exploring the world’s nooks and crannies. Follow her on Instagram @rachael_dupree.

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