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July 8, 2009 > Woman shares chickens as therapy animals

Woman shares chickens as therapy animals

POLSON, Mont. (AP), Jun 19 _ Therapy dogs are a comfort for people recovering from health disorders or facing other hurdles in their lives. How about therapy chickens?

A Polson woman has decided that white leghorn rooster Alex and Cornish game hen Carlita are too good to keep to herself.

This week, Jana Clairmont and a friend took the pair to visit residents at Polson Health and Rehabilitation Center. Clairmont said she got the chickens for her grandchildren, ``but they're so good with people, I thought, 'Why not turn this into a positive?'''

She calls her therapy birds ``Fowl Play.''

The visit to Polson Health and Rehabilitation was the first outing for Alex and Carlita and appeared to go well, although Alex quickly bonded with one man, Chuck Gilham, and didn't seem interested in spending much time with anyone else.

As Gilham stroked the rooster's feathers with one hand, Alex stretched his neck out and rested it across Gilham's other forearm, much like a puppy. The bird was so relaxed that he even snuggled his head between Gilham's arm and chest, and snoozed for a bit.

``I like him,'' said Gilham, who grew up on a farm near Cut Bank and recalled having a pet chicken during childhood.

That's part of the reason Clairmont decided to move her chickens into the therapy world.

``Most of your seniors were raised around chickens and cows,'' she said, and holding a chicken triggers memories.

Chickens ``develop so many human qualities if they're around people,'' she said.

Clairmont has arranged appearances at retirement homes and assisted living centers near Flathead Lake, and said she wants to take Alex and Carlita, both 4 months old, into classrooms when school resumes this fall. She doesn't charge a fee, but hopes to recoup fuel costs if she leaves the Polson area.

Clairmont said a neighbor in Polson complained about the birds and she moved them to a relative's countryside home, where she visits them a couple of times daily.

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Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

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