Chicken therapy

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to "Clementine."

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to “Clementine.”

Ellen Levinson’s tone becomes nostalgic as she recalls how she felt the day last summer when Terry Golson placed a hen in her lap.

“Having that chicken in my arms and holding it against my body was profoundly soothing,” Levinson said.

But even in that moment, she wasn’t thinking so much about herself as her clientele. Levinson is executive director of Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley , a nursing home in Littleton that offers residential care for elderly patients with memory loss as well as short-term rehabilitation services.

“We deal with agitation a lot on the dementia unit,” Levinson said. “The chicken felt wonderful to hold. Something clicked. If I were agitated or upset, this is what I would want.”

She couldn’t have been in a better place when the idea struck her. She was attending a seminar led by Golson, a Carlisle resident whose acclaim as a poultry-raising authority has landed her on Martha Stewart’s TV show and in the New Yorker magazine.

During the backyard workshop, which Golson offers periodically, Levinson found herself thinking more about how the presence of chickens might affect her patients.

“We spent some time watching the chickens as they pecked in the ground and took dirt baths, and it was fascinating,’’ Levinson said.

“One of the issues present in people with dementia is short attention span. They can’t sit still for even half an hour. But if we had the chickens nearby, I started thinking, our residents would be able to watch them for a short time, move on to something else, then come back and watch them some more. It seemed like a natural fit.”

The notion wasn’t quite as far-fetched as it might seem. With its grass-rich campus amid what was once agricultural land in Littleton, the Life Care Center has already introduced several nonhuman inhabitants into the mix. Permanently installed on the 40-acre property are goats, llamas, an alpaca, and an indoor cat, and dogs come in for daily visits; Levinson wondered how her patients might react to chickens in their midst.

Levinson asked Golson to visit the facility and advise the Life Care staff on the viability of installing a chicken coop on the grounds. Golson loved the idea. After discussing with Levinson what would be required to set up a flock, Colson and the director of the facility’s memory support unit, Erica Labb, arranged a series of visits to introduce the residents to the idea.

It was during these interactive sessions that Labb, who describes herself as “not that much of an animal person previously, but now I’m becoming one,” was struck by something she doesn’t typically see during group events in her unit: rapt attention.

Unlike the more common animal-therapy programs in which dogs are trained to visit hospitals and nursing homes, the chickens are not expected to interact in any particular way with patients. And unlike the llamas, goats, and alpaca, which are kept on the Life Care Center’s front lawn, the chickens and their coop are right outside the large picture window in the activity room.

It became clear to Golson in her initial presentations that chickens carried strong associations for some of the residents. Many of them, now in their 80s and 90s, grew up around farms or had other memories associated with farm animals.

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to "Beulah," by "Chicken Captain" Terry Golson (right).

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to “Beulah,” by “Chicken Captain” Terry Golson (right).

“Chickens are innately engaging,” Golson said. “I made it tactile by passing around feathers and eggs. For some of these elderly people, it’s been years since they’ve touched an egg. For those who used to do a lot of cooking or baking, having an egg in their hand can be very evocative. For one woman who grew up in Italy, holding the egg tapped into memories of making homemade pasta.”

One of Golson’s areas of expertise is, for lack of a better term, chicken personality. It was important to her to find the right mix of fowl temperaments to make this experiment work. So she began the way she always does with newcomers: by getting to know them.

“Last winter, I ordered 26 chicks from a mail-order hatchery. Once they arrived in March, I observed their innate personalities and eventually chose the five that seemed the friendliest.”

Not only did Golson want the right social characteristics among the Life Care flock, she also wanted the nursing home residents to be able to distinguish among them visually, so she chose a variety of breeds and colors to make the final cut.

The chickens and their coop showed up at the nursing home late last month.

Labb came up with an inspiration for naming the birds; she chose from among a list of the names of the residents’ mothers and grandmothers. As a result, the tenants of Life Care’s new chicken coop are Clementine, Elsie, Beulah, Mae Belle, and Millie.

“My hope is the residents get to know the chickens individually and develop some interest in their social life,” Labb said. “They’ll develop favorites. Eventually, I hope they will participate in caretaking, feeding, gathering eggs. The goal really comes down to engagement.”

Labb never anticipated adding “chicken captain” to her resume, but a few lessons from Golson taught her what she needed to know about keeping the birds safe and healthy. The maintenance staff bears the brunt of the feeding and cleaning for all the farm animals at Life Care. At this point, having animals on the property is second nature to them. Not so for those farther afield; Levinson received a phone call from a representative of the center’s accounting firm in Tennessee, who wanted to know why the nursing home had just received a bill for a chicken coop.

Littleton resident Richard Carozza , a recent McGill University graduate who is applying to medical schools, has joined the Life Care team for the summer as a volunteer to apply his scientific research skills to the experiment.

“We’ve already discovered that Life Care has a lower usage of antipsychotic drugs than other facilities with dementia patients,” he said. “Could this be related to the presence of animals?”

And by extension, Carozza wonders, can he prove a measurable difference in the patients’ behaviors after they start interacting with the chickens? He will spend much of the summer investigating these questions.

So far, Labb and Levinson both say they are pleased with the residents’ interest in the coop, and eager to foster continuing interaction throughout the summer, including having the residents help gather eggs once the chickens start laying.

Golson would like to see this model extended to other long-term care and memory loss facilities, particularly if the same careful attention to detail is followed.

“Life Care went far beyond just throwing some chickens and a coop out onto the lawn,” the facility’s consultant said. “It’s important that this not be done in a slapdash way. It has to come across as a beautiful, well-cared-for flock, just as this one is.”

And the presence of the animals helps when the residents have visitors as well.

“It’s a way of connecting generations,” Labb said. “Nursing homes can be scary places for young children. People sometimes don’t know how to visit. The animals provide something for everyone to watch together.”

Golson, whose website (www.hencam.com) features live streaming video from her own chicken coop, believes that “watching chickens is both engaging and peaceful at the same time.”

“Having chickens in the backyard is like looking at the ocean. There’s a lot of movement and at the same time it feels calming. What could be better for memory-loss patients than this constant ebb and flow in which they can engage? It’s a perfect match.”

Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/west/2013/06/26/flock-chickens-provides-new-form-animal-therapy-for-memory-loss-patients-littleton-nursing-home/Oj9mrJmiCmAI74ryCe4JuK/story.html

Drought’s impact on duck dynasties

Top Photo
You know what they say about how ducks take to water.

What if there isn’t any water?

Dry conditions across California this spring reduced the population of breeding mallard ducks by nearly one-quarter, to levels not seen since the drought of the late 2000s.

In round numbers, the population decreased from 387,100 ducks last year to 298,600 ducks this year.

Reductions in water supply often make headlines for the impact on farms, cities and endangered fish. But this year’s poor duck count demonstrates how waterfowl, too, are susceptible to drought.

The results, released last week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, have implications for the hunting community in Stockton and elsewhere, since hunting regulations next fall will be based in part on how many ducks were breeding this past spring. The economic benefit of waterfowl hunting in California has been estimated at more than $100 million.

Waterfowl are faring much better in other parts of North America, but 70 percent of the mallard ducks harvested by California hunters come from this state, making it important to ensure the birds have quality habitat and water here at home.

Caroline Brady, programs coordinator for the California Waterfowl Association, said she doubts hunters will be surprised by the reduction in population.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a shock because of the lack of water,” she said.

The good news is that populations could bounce back if next winter is wet. The numbers have fluctuated up and down over the past two decades, and bag limits are actually more liberal today than they were more than a decade ago, Brady said.

“The important thing to look at is the general trend,” she said. “For the most part there’s years when it’s really high and there’s years when it’s really low.”

But, she added, “Some water (next year) would do everyone some good.”

Ducks usually pair up in late winter, and once spring arrives, they work together to find a nesting site. They’ll pick one that is upwind and not far from water.

The problem during a year like this, Brady said, is that water is moved around so much, particularly on private lands.

Ducks that pick a nest based on availability of water may suddenly find themselves five miles from the nearest source.

Fish and Wildlife has been conducting its waterfowl surveys since 1955, flying fixed-wing aircraft up and down the Valley and over the farms and wetlands of far northeastern California. The California Waterfowl Association assists, using low-flying helicopters to watch for birds on the ground.

Mallards weren’t the only concern this spring. The total number of ducks of all species declined from 529,700 last year to 451,300 this year, which is 77 percent of the long-term average.

Source: http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130625/A_NEWS/306250319

Lucky Ducks

Seven ducklings are lucky to be alive after being pulled to safety from a storm drain in Ohio by Good Samaritans – but the baby mallards ultimately have their mom to thank for their rescue.

Columbus Discovery District Officer Bill Cobun was passing through a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community College Tuesday when he noticed an agitated duck standing near the grate of a storm drain.

The mallard was squawking as if trying to draw someone’s attention and appeared in distress, so Cobun approached the feathered critter for a closer look, suspecting that she might be ill.

Duck in distress: An agitated mallard was spotted standing near the grate of a storm drain in Columbus, Ohio, and squawking Duck in distress: An agitated mallard was spotted standing near the grate of a storm drain in Columbus, Ohio, and squawking

Stranded: Seven chicks had fallen down into the storm drain in a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community CollegeStranded: Seven chicks had fallen down into the storm drain in a parking lot on the Columbus campus of Columbus State Community College
WernerWerner

Hometown heroes:  Columbus Discovery District Officer Bill Cobun (left) and Police Lt. Dan Werner (right) answered the feathered mom’s distress call and came to her ducklings’ rescue 

When the safety officer made his way to the grate, he heard chirping coming from the underground nook.

As it turns out, the mallard was upset that seven of her chicks had fallen down into the storm drain and became stranded, ABCNews.com reported.

Cobun called for assistance, inadvertently alerting the college’s media relations coordinator David Wayne, who rushed to the scene of the duckling rescue accompanied by a videographer.

Meanwhile, college safety officers and Lt. Dan Werner, of the Columbus State Police, arrived in the parking lot and removed the grate.

The rescue of the trapped ducklings was captured on video showing the officers plucking the fuzzy yellow-and-black chicks from the storm drain and setting them free above ground.

Rescue mission: The officers remobed the grate, reached down into the hole and extracted the tiny trapped ducklings Duck tale: The officers remobed the grate, reached down into the hole and extracted the tiny trapped ducklings
ducklings ducklings

Freedom: The tiny baby ducks were released from their captivity, rushing to their mother’s side

Happy end: Once the ducks were reunited, they went about their business Happy end: Once the ducks were reunited, they went about their business

The tiny critters could be seen rushing to their mother’s side, one of them even flipping over in his hurry to reunite with his feathered parent.

Lt Werner, a self-described animal lover, said he was thrilled to help save the baby ducks from their predicament.

‘What amazes me is nature, how mama wouldn’t leave. She was staying right here. She kept looking in the hole to make sure they were OK,’ he said.

Once the tight-knit avian family were back together, the mom and her ducklings went on their merry way.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2345558/Lucky-ducks-The-heartwarming-moment-ducklings-fell-storm-drain-rescued-concerned-mother-looks-on.html#ixzz2XDsMFuKf

Ducknapped

The 'Culture Duck' at the Everglades Hotel has gone missing. A reward is being offered for its safe return.

reward is being offered for the safe return of a three-foot high ‘Culture Duck’ which has gone missing from the Everglades Hotel.

The Culture Duck, which “lived” on the piano in the hotel foyer, went missing this week.

The duck – a talking point for guests and visitors to the hotel – was created to celebrate Derry’s City of Culture status.

Neil Devlin, the hotel’s general manager, said: “The Culture Duck has been a vocal point of our City of Culture celebrations. At Hastings Hotels, we are well known for our quirky ducks so we thought it was only right to have a special duck to celebrate Derry’s big year.

“Our Culture Duck has sat on the piano since January and has greeted all of our guests and a host of celebrities, including the Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill, X Factor star Janet Devlin and rapper Wretch 32.

“There are mini versions of the ducks left for guests in their bedrooms to take home with them, but people also love getting their picture taken with the three-foot tall Culture Duck which is great as it provides people with lasting memories of Derry’s year as the UK City of Culture.

“As well as being a part of our family, it is also a part of our community as it was designed by Georgia Archibald, from Limavady Grammar School, who won the Design a Culture Duck competition we ran last year with all of the local schools.

“We are offering a reward for the safe return of our Culture Duck and are urging anyone who knows anything about its whereabouts to get in touch with us on Tel: 028 71321066.”

Source: http://www.derryjournal.com/news/everglades-goes-quackers-over-missing-culture-duck-1-5213652

Hi-rise hatchers

Thirteen eggs in a planter on one of Terry Allen Kramer’s terraces hatched the day she was having a luncheon for friends at her Upper East Side penthouse.

The wild ducklings were not only tiny but also hungry, so she put out dry cereal and shredded lettuce. “And then they wanted the lobster we were having for lunch,” said Mrs. Kramer, the Broadway producer whose hits include the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.”

Her ducklings might have been the only baby birds nibbling on cold lobster in New York City, but they are hardly the only mallards born on Manhattan’s terraces and roof decks, according to Michelle Gewirtz, a volunteer at New York City’s Wild Bird Fund.

Each year, Ms. Gewirtz rescues 10 to 15 clutches of baby ducks from rooftops, no place for them to learn to fly.

When Ms. Gewirtz, a licensed animal rehabilitator who has earned the nickname The Duck Wrangler, started rescuing birds eight years ago, the majority of the nests were on the Upper East Side. Mrs. Kramer’s East 69th Street terraces first became the nesting site for a female mallard three years ago, and again this spring.

“It’s amazing to think that you could be in New York City and wake up one morning and you have a family there,” Mrs. Kramer said. “I almost felt like God had touched me. I had to take care of them.”

This year, several nests appeared on the Columbia University campus and on roofs and in courtyards on the Upper West Side, according to Ms. Gewirtz.

Central Park is rife with predators – from rats to snapping turtles — and the female mallard looks for safer spots, Ms. Gewirtz said.

“So she picks these terraces that are nice and green and secluded,” she said.

Mallards are precocial, meaning the ducklings are born able to eat on their own.  Since there isn’t enough food for them on the rooftops, the Wild Bird Fund recommends a special high-protein food for ducklings and dark greens. Mrs. Kramer’s ducklings continued to like lobster, she said, but when her butler returned from Florida, he brought back live worms.

The Wild Bird Fund was created by two women: Rita McMahon, a former market research consultant, and Karen Heidgerd, the practice manager at an Upper West Side veterinary hospital, Animal General. They met after Ms. McMahon picked up a sick Canada goose alongside Interstate 684.

A year ago this month, after a decade of treating animals in Ms. McMahon’s apartment, The Wild Bird Fund opened a wildlife rehabilitation center on Columbus Avenue. Until then, New York was the only major city in the United States without one, McMahon said. The nonprofit organization aims to raise $330,000 each year from donations.  As a fundraiser Thursday evening, its showing the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” starring Ben Kingsley. The event begins with at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of The Colonial Dames of America at 417 E. 61st Street.

In the first year, the staff treated 1,400 animals — mostly birds, from peregrine falcons to hummingbirds, and of course pigeons, along with woodchucks, chipmunks and assorted other wildlife. A turkey vulture was brought in with a broken wing after superstorm Sandy and now is at a rehabilitation center with another vulture.

One recent visitor to the center was David Usdan, a psychologist who has been looking after a clutch of about 10 ducklings that hatched on his building’s roof deck in May. He got food at the center and advice from Ms. Gewirtz on creating a pond out of  a plastic storage bin.

“There were a couple of mishaps with the ducklings, unfortunately,” he said. “I think five of them may have fallen off the roof. That was really sad.”

And then one day, two of the ducklings somehow made it to the street below. Traffic was stopped until they and the mother got safely to a parking lot next to Mr. Usdan’s building on 113th Street near Broadway.

“It was a crisis,” he said. “We had to figure out what to do. A big crowd was forming in front of the parking lot.”

He and his partner, Howard Brenner, shepherded the ducklings into a box, returned them to the roof and were relieved when the mother reappeared the next morning.  But since then another duckling has gone missing, and recently Ms. Gewirtz was plotting how to corral the remaining four.

She prefers to move the ducklings before they try to fly and risk falling to the sidewalk. They are eventually released in parks and on farms and estates.

“People who take care of these ducklings get super attached to them because they are adorable,” Ms. Gewirtz said.

Mr. Usdan said that he would be sorry to see his brood go, though he might get another visit next year. The mallards tend to return to the same place year after year.

Tina Chen, an actor and director who also lives on the Upper East Side, has had four clutches of eggs hatch on her terrace from what she thinks is a mother-daughter duo.  The first ducklings, though, were pelted to death by a fierce rainstorm.

“They were just so delicate,” she said. “It broke my heart.”

Determined to make sure the later ducklings survived, Ms. Chen fed them three times a day and kept them more than a month, in hindsight too long, she said.

A few weeks after Ms. Gewirtz moved them to Central Park, Ms. Chen went to try to find them. She believes she did.

“I looked and there were six ducks swimming as fast as they could,” she said. “When they got to the end of the pond, they jumped onto the ground and came towards me.”

But cleaning up after them was a lot of work, and at one point she erected owl and hawk decoys to try, unsuccessfully, to keep the female mallards away.

“I know they’re coming back,” she said. “They know this place, no matter how hard I try.”

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2013/06/23/rescuers-hatch-plan-for-ducks-that-land-on-manhattan-high-rises/

Rubber duck artist Florentijn Hofman doesn’t understand intellectual property

rubber-ducks-hofman.png

It was announced this week that Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman will bring a smaller version of the Hong Kong duck to China’s capital for Beijing Design Week in September. Accompanying the duck will be Hofman’s inflated ego and wilful misunderstanding of copyright and intellectual property.

In previous coverage of the Hong Kong duck we’ve largely overlooked Hofman’s ridiculous statements (he claimed Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour would “never be the same“) about the “meaning” behind his work: ‘artist says pretentious thing about art’ isn’t really news. What is worth discussing however is Hofman’s equally ridiculous statements about intellectual property and the monopoly he seems to think he has on depictions of rubber ducks.

The stated objective of Hofman’s visit to Beijing Design Week is to “drive an awareness programme raising the sensibility towards intellectual property rights around China”. This is an admirable goal for sure, but one that is entirely unsuited to Hofman’s work.

As Jeremy Goldkorn pointed out on Twitter, rubber ducks predate Florentijn Hofman by a long time. The first rubber ducks appeared in the late 19th century as rubber manufacturing became widespread. In fact, the iconic nature of the rubber duck in pop culture is what makes Hofman’s work so successful, something he previously acknowledged. Since bringing his work to China however, Hofman (and his representatives) have taken a different approach, seeking to claim that companies that riff on or recreate the Hong Kong duck are infringing upon the artist’s “intellectual property”, a narrative that has been seized upon and bolstered by the Chinese press in a series handwringing editorials.

From a moral standpoint, Hofman’s case is fairly strong. Recreations/copies of the Hong Kong duck that popped up in Chinese cities were crass opportunism at best, a way to piggyback on the huge amount of goodwill Hong Kong was receiving from the duck’s presence in Victoria Harbour. What the recreations do not do is infringe upon Hofman’s intellectual property rights. Making a larger version of an existing object does not give one copyright over other depictions of that object.

When discussing copyright and creativity, the words we use matter. Hofman is well within his rights to say that copying his idea (of taking an existing object and making a large, inflatable version of it) is kind of a dick move, but to make this a debate about intellectual property only further degrades an already vague, unhelpful term.

tl;dr “Pretentious Artist Doesn’t Understand Intricacies of Copyright Law”

Source: http://shanghaiist.com/2013/06/25/rubber_duck_artist_florentijn_hofman_doesnt_understand_intellectual_property.php

Steadicam chickens

Did you know that chickens have image stabilized heads. It’s true!  It’s actually called the vestibulo-ocular reflex. Naturally (and… nerdily?) people started suggesting that someone should try making a steadicam using a chicken. Well, YouTube user Destin actually went ahead and did it… The results can be seen in the video  below.