Raising Chickens and Special Needs Kids

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by Blooie, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I talk so much on other threads about my granddaughters, sisters Katie and Kendra, and have had such positive interaction with other people that I thought I'd move it over to here. It's way too easy to hijack a thread talking about our amazing little people and I'm guiltier than most - I think because the girls live across the street, I see them daily, and am very involved in their lives.

    8 (almost 9) year old Katie has mild, high functioning autism. Not that you'd know it when you spend time with her. Her social skills are a little behind, she has trouble with Hyperaccusis, making eye contact consistently, and has spacial issues...she's not always sure where her body is in space and it doesn't help that she was born missing a rib and with asymetrical hips. But she is a joy. She has been in dance class since she was three years old (she looked just exactly like Tinkerbell when she was that age) and it's been so good for her. We live in a community of just over 600 people so everyone knows her, the other kids love her, and she's just like everyone else. She hasn't had any meltdowns in so long I can't even remember the last one!

    Kendra just turned 3 and she was born with Spina Bifida. She was fitted for her first wheelchair at the ripe old age of 9 months old and by a year old we were sometimes running to keep up - all the while trying to protect our toes in case she turned suddenly. She's not talking yet - she has lots of seizures and so there's a constant interruption in the flow of information which delays learning some things. Imagine that someone put a quarter on a countertop in a kitchen you'd never seen before, and asked you to pick up that quarter. Then they hit the light switch and flipped it on and off as fast as they could. You'd have trouble finding the countertop, let alone the quarter, because every time you tried to focus the information going to your brain changed. Eventually you'd get it, but it would take far longer than if you could just walk right over and grab the coin. That's Kendra's life. She has hydrocephalus but thus far hasn't needed shunts. She is absolutely adorable with long, curly dark hair and big blue eyes. This baby, who was supposed to be wheelchair bound for her life, is now pulling herself up to stand and take a few steps, and even climbed up on the couch by herself yesterday. She also takes a few steps holding our hands, saying, "Walk, walk" over and over again with every step.

    Katie and my grandson Evan, who lives two blocks down with his mom, are my chicken sitters when Ken and I are out of town, and we have to do that a lot with Ken's activities. They do a fabulous job - they have their "coop shoes", they check for eggs on the way to school, and after school they come over and clean the poop deck, gather the rest of the eggs, check food and water and replenish if needed, and make sure everything is locked up. They are amazing. Katie does more chicken sitting than Evan - he can take the chickens or leave them although he never slacks in the area of their care. Katie, on the other hand, loves all things chickens. She knows them all by name and even has her own chicken, Agatha, an Easter Egger who recently went broody and hatched just one chick. She wrote a children's brochure - a tri-fold, no less - about chickens and it's wonderful

    Kendra doesn't spend a lot of time with the chickens, although she loved seeing them when they were chicks and still living in the brooder in the house. We have the issues of her being heavy to carry everywhere and chicken poop in the yard isn't conducive to a happy wheelchair experience.....babies' chairs don't have the metal outer hand wheel for pushing the chair, she has to use the tires. 'Nuff said? We've tried little gloves so her hands don't get gross, but she won't leave them on and she can't understand explanations as to why she should use them yet.

    So what's your story? If you have a special needs little one in your life, are they interested in the chickens? Can they help with any of the chores, or even just give a radiant smile when they see a new chick? Have you come up with a clever way to make the coop and/or run accessible for them? I'd love it if you'd join us here for sharing ideas, stories, triumphs and setbacks. Maybe you are trying to enjoy raising chickens and have found a way to cope with allergies...any little thing might help someone else.

    The usual BYC admonitions apply...if you can't say something nicely, we'd prefer you not say it. We go through enough taking care of these special little people and don't need anyone questioning why we let them be born, (Yes, we hear that!) or that we aren't doing all we can for our kids.

    [​IMG] Can't wait to get the conversation rolling!
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    We have friends with a daughter with hydrocephalus. Lilli is 3 now, and overall doing quite well. She's walking and running, and wears her bright pink helmet when she's over here cause she gets so excited with the animals she's a fall risk. She absolutely loves tossing scratch or scraps for the birds, and finding eggs just makes her face light up. We don't pet our birds, so that doesn't really happen, but the dogs and cats are fair game.

    Speaking of dogs, our farmdog Roscoe totally devotes himself to her when she's here. Even when she was little and would just nap in the stroller, he would lay near her and "guard" her from the younger, rowdier dog. Roscoe is usually within a few feet of me, but she's the one person who trumps me in his attentions. She used to use him for a walker before she could go on her own. He'll tolerate anything from her, while when other kids come over, he prefers to vanish [​IMG]
     
  3. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Lilli is so lucky that you are nearby with your critters! Is there anything like the grin of a child when they spot that egg out in the coop? It's like the best Easter Egg hunt ever!! Does Lilli have shunts? We've been lucky so far in that Kendra's little body has found a balance between the excess cerebral spinal fluid in her ventricles and the plumbing system in her spine so she's avoided that, but I'm sure someday the surgery will come up. I'm always curious about how the little ones adapt to the shunts and wondered if there is a lot of extra care involved. The helmet sounds like a great idea. Kendra will likely be able to walk short distances with braces and hand crutches, but will spend the majority of her time in the wheelchair. That's why Denver Children's fitted her at only 9 months old. She was part of a study to see if it makes more sense to start them in the chair earlier than at the previously accepted age and she was their star tester!

    Dogs and kids are always special to watch, but dogs with special needs kids are remarkable. Molly (our English Setter) is incredible with Kendra. She seems to tone down her hyper nature when Kendra's around. Roscoe must be just as near and dear to Lilli's heart as she is to his.

    We don't do the chicken holding and petting thing here either, but Katie comes the closest to an openly affectionate attachment to her Agatha. Right now Aggie is taking care of her first chick and Katie can spend a half hour standing in the run watching him/her running around and peeping, learning to be a chicken. Kendra just likes to watch from a distance. Wheelchair tires and chicken poop don't mix! "Chicken" and "dog" are among Kendra's few words.

    If Lilli is like my girls, she blossoms when she's interacting with the chickens. All the little things, like the noises they make or standing tall and flapping their wings brings giggles of delight. And they feel so important when they get to toss out that scratch or fill the feeders. My chickens have been a blessing to Kendra and Katie.
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I honestly can't remember right off if she has a shunt or not. I'll have to ask.

    Her latest challenge was surgery to remove tonsils and close a partially formed esophagus. Poor thing has had recurring resp infections/pneumonia all her life. They finally did a scan and found this malformed, partially developed second esophagus that was pocketing food, then refluxing it and causing aspiration pneumonia. The surgery was a little harrowing, but once she's healed up maybe her swallow will be better and she can ditch the peg tube!
     
  5. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I'll add her to my prayers. So much is said about the brave heroes in this world - the ones who explore new territories, fight to defend their homes and loved ones, and run into burning buildings to save a life. But to me these little ones, with their valor and smiles through their tears, are the real heroes. I think of them as "Little Warriors". They have no choices - they have to go along with whatever is done to them, not understanding that it's FOR them. And they fight their battles day after day, year after year in some cases. It's humbling.
     
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  6. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    My brother has severe autism and ADHD. He is terrified of chickens, and always requests the broom when they come near him. And he does not want it for cleaning...
    He loves the ducks though, like, LOVES them. Just not when they are babies. He has a thing about babies. He is not very vocal.
     
  7. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    It sounds like he's a very lucky little guy to have a big brother who tries to understand him and help him deal with his fears. Isn't that funny how kids - all kids, not just special needs kids - have such strong preferences? I'm more nervous around my daughter's ducks than I am around my chickens. Some of that is because the chickens belong to me and I see them everyday, but the other part is that I just don't trust ducks! Give him a gentle hug from me, will you?
     
  8. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

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    My grandson was 11 when he came to stay with me for a year and a half. We are not sure if he has autism, or if his problems are a result of abuse he suffered from his father when my grandson was an infant. In any case, he has problems knowing how to act appropriately with other children and had had problems at home with his mom (my daughter) and his little sister. As a result, my farm seemed an ideal placement, since I live here alone - without any other humans. But when he first got here, he was very angry and moped around the house, telling me there was nothing to do here.
    His contact with other children was severely limited and it didn't seem to me he had the opportunity to work on developing appropriate social skills. I wanted him to have the opportunity to nurture beings smaller and more helpless than himself. So I ordered 25 chicks from Sandhill Preservation Center.
    They sent assorted chicks which were odd, or left over from filling other orders. So we received about 15 different breeds. They actually sent about 35 chicks, even though my order was only for 25. My mother helped to finance a chicken house -with a capacity for 50 birds and 3 chicken yards (so we could rotate them). And my grandson found an electric incubator I had purchased years earlier, but forgotten about.
    He loved working with the small chicks. He monitored their temperature many, many times a day and would let me know if they needed more food or water. Although he kept close watch on their conditions, he didn't like actually feeding them or watering them. And he had no interest in cleaning their container. However, he loved watching them develop and trying to match the chicks to the list of breeds that came with them.
    When they started laying eggs, he got out the incubator and wanted to start incubating eggs right away . Although the incubator could incubate 40 eggs at a time, I limited him to 15 eggs per batch. He told me I was wasting electricity by not incubating the full capacity of 40 eggs. He monitored the temperature and humidity at least 10 times a day, and usually got between 99 to 100% hatch rate. It was very disturbing to him if an egg did not hatch. As the chicks emerged from their shells, he would try to guess the parentage of each chick. The fact we had so many breeds, and almost all of the chicks were crosses was just wonderful!
    Unfortunately, he didn't like to clean their containers, or the chicken house. Nor was he very interested in feeding or watering the chicks or chickens. Those were my jobs. But no sooner was the incubator empty, he would want to fill it again.
    We watched DVD's from the library on chickens, and he would drool over the commercial incubators, which hold thousands of eggs - "Can't we get one of those!" I shuddered inwardly, thinking of all those chickens to care for - he thought of all those genetic combinations to explore!
    Later, the local hardware store was selling chicks and ducklings. He saw those babies and began pleading. Since we already had so many chicks, we settled for 3 ducklings. Again, he had no interest in actually caring for them, but handling them delighted him. Their texture was so soft!
    To make a very long story much shorter - by the time he left he was either with the birds, or playing out fantasies in the meadow beyond the chicken house. He would jump, twirl and wave sticks around - acting out what must have been great fantasy adventures. He was rarely in the house. And when he did go he left me with over 120 chickens, and 3 ducks!
     
  9. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Oh mercy!! He did leave you with more than 120 chickens and 3 ducks, though. He left you with a pocket full of memories and knowing that when no one else was there for him, you were. And you gave him an interest in something smaller and more fragile than he was, which is probably why he gravitated so much to the cuddling and watching and less to the mess cleaning! There's a special place in Heaven for both of you, Gramma! How's he doing now? How old is he? Is he still interested in genetics and such? Could be a career launch, you know! [​IMG]
     
  10. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

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    One hundred and twenty chickens - and three ducks! Don't forget about the ducks! They ate my water lilies. And my goldfish.

    He is 17 now, and typically not interested in anything anyone else wants him to be interested in. He's back with his mom, but his sister didn't feel comfortable being in the same house with him, so she moved in with her father. As far as I know, both kids are still in therapy.

    My grandson will not, of course, admit staying with me had any beneficial effects. But he still has an active interest in science and biology. Even though he won't credit his experiences here with helping to develop those interests, I can't believe those experiences hindered him in any way. I am willing to be patient and wait another 20 years before I ask him about it all. In the meantime, I hold my breath and hope both kids finish high school and go on to college.

    As for me, well, I sold that incubator shortly after my grandson left. Now, if the hens don't hatch the eggs, we don't have chicks. The hens can keep track of those chicks, make sure the temp's and humidity is right, turn the eggs and let me know if one of the cats are around. I don't mind delegating some of the responsibility. I'm not greedy that way. Besides, all babies really need moms. I've gotten the flock size down to around 50 adult birds, a much more comfortable number and there are no longer any ducks on my farm. But I can say the whole episode wasn't boring!
     

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