7th May, 2014
Headway Cambridgeshire’s clients have been enjoying the benefits of gardening for a few years now in the garden and allotment. The idea to look after chickens came from the clients themselves as they wanted to build upon the successes they have already achieved in the horticulture group. When Headway Cambridgeshire moved to new premises at Ida Darwin at the end of 2012, the clients were delighted to be able to plan their new garden from scratch and contemplate new challenges. They insisted they wanted chickens.
All Headway Cambridgeshire’s sessions are available to all our clients, hence an emphasis on making not only the garden but also the allotment accessible. Nothing less could be achieved when we began planning the new hen project – so it took a while to make sure we had the right site and design for a fully wheelchair accessible chicken coop.
Through collaboration with other organisations and a combination of charitable grants and donated volunteer time, our wheelchair accessible chicken coop was finally ready. After a few more preparations, such as rabbit proofing the coop, and building a wheelchair accessible path, Headway Cambridgeshire was finally ready to bring the chickens home to roost.
In early March, a group of Headway Cambridgeshire’s clients made the journey to ‘Jessies Hens’ to choose their chickens. The clients chose young hens at the point of lay. The chickens, (1 each of Leopard Sussex, Black Nera and Chestnut Blacktail) have now been in their new home for a month and are less shy than when they first arrived. The clients are encouraged to have contact with the chickens and all enjoy learning how to feed and care for them. The clients all derive a great deal from working together in caring for the chickens. The hens will soon begin laying eggs and the clients are looking forward to the day when the Life-skills group can begin making omelettes with vegetables from their garden and eggs from their own hens.
Jeanette Tasker, Director of Services said that the clients are really benefiting from having the hens here. As well as developing people’s skills and knowledge we have also seen an increase in people’s confidence and communication skills. The chatter every break time is about the hens; they have definitely brought a smile to people’s faces.
Client Colin said “I am really enjoying looking after the chickens. I kept chickens before so am looking forward to remembering what I used to do.”
Client Elaine said “I like looking after the chickens and am looking forward to getting free eggs.”
Just as we were about to publish this article - there was a new development in the story - one of our hens: we're not sure which one, has laid her first egg.
“ Thank you for the support and advice that you have been giving my husband. This has in turn taken a lot of pressure off me and has helped me through his bad days and angry spells. ”