This care facility is getting creative with pet therapy to help residents flourish

TINLEY PARK, Ill. -- Two chickens had an awesome reason to cross the road in Tinley Park, giving members of the Porter Place community a sense of purpose and endless laughs.

"We specialize exclusively in memory support," said Bobby Kelley. "We had full-sized horses, we have an on-site therapy dog and we knew the chickens would be a big hit. We really pride ourselves on the fact that we bring new and creative ways to engage the residents."

Kelly is the community relations director at Porter Place, which is a licensed assisted living facility in the Chicago suburb of Tinely Park.

The hens, named Pepsi and Coke, moved to the community in June. Every day the seniors help take care of the chickens, gathering their eggs and even walking them around the center.

"Just being able to sit out in the courtyard and listen to them kind of 'talk' it's soothing, calming and relaxing, as well as being able to touch and pet them," said Jennifer Boonstra, Porter Place's Life Enrichment Director.

Barbara Couser's mother, Ellen, lives at Porter Place. When she heard about the new Happy Hen program, she was ecstatic.

"I was really excited for my mom to have the ability to have something to do and have a purpose," Couser said.

Other residents of the community are excited to have the chickens around as well.

"I keep saying to them, 'I hope you're feeling comfortable, and if you're not please let us know so we can do something to make you squawk a little bit better,'" resident Vivian Reks said.

For many, taking care of the hens is an opportunity they never expected.

"I've only had dogs in my life, so to have a chicken around me is an experience I can never replace," resident Linda Ozmin said.