A unique therapy using chickens to help kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder gain social skills and confidence is gaining worldwide attention after its creator, 10-year- old Summer Farrelly, went viral with her Facebook page Chickens to Love.
Birds of a feather
Bundaberg student, Summer Farrelly lives with an ASD diagnosis, which means at times she finds social cues and emotional situations challenging.
After being gifted her first hen, Poley, Summer discovered spending time with her feathered friend made her feel loved and helped calm her social anxiety; the feeling was mutual and they became fast friends.
Summer noticed her chickens develop distinct flocks just like people made friends. Watching Poley and her brood, she began to better understand social interactions – both fowl and human – and put the emotions into context.
Realising how much she benefitted from Poley’s friendship, Summer set out to help other people - including her younger brothers, who also live with ASD - feel the same, and Chickens to Love was born.
Chickens to Love
The idea behind Chicken to Love is simple; it provides socialised chickens to people as companions so they can provide friendship, happiness and loyalty.
Summer and her mum, Cynthia, have collaborated with therapists to write a therapy program based on the bond Summer formed with her flock to help people with a range of physical and mental disabilities use the chickens as a tool.
The inclusive program focuses on the individual’s strengths and interests regardless of age, physical and learning abilities.
In 2017, local charity Community Lifestyles Support an Ability Organisation joined a growing group of supporters, rallying local businesses and the community to build a new coop located at the ability centre to expand the program.
The service is working with Summer and qualified therapists to create a companion chicken area and design a program for visitors to take part in; offering coops for hire, companion chickens, laying hens, incubators and chicks to the community and activities for visiting schools, aged care facilities and child care centres.
The companion hen program is open to everyone, regardless of their diagnosis, as long as they can adequately care for the hens. If the recipient wants to return the hen, they will be able to do so too.
Chickens to Love hopes to continue expanding, hopefully providing employment opportunities for individuals with learning challenges.
For more information about Summer and her flock visit Chickens to Love to Facebook.