Chick­ens and Chi

Put A Pin In It!

Luxe Beat Magazine - - News - By Deb­bie Stone

Icon­fess I’ve never been a fan of chick­ens. They al­ways seem like ner­vous, high strung birds, and their peck­ing and quick move­ments are un­set­tling to me. I would never have imag­ined that these crea­tures could be used in the realm of an­i­mal-as­sisted ther­apy. Dogs, yes. Horses, sure. But, chick­ens? They couldn’t pos­si­bly bring a sense of calm and com­fort to peo­ple. Then I was in­tro­duced to Blanco and his gang and some­thing spe­cial hap­pened. At newly-opened Sun­rise Springs In­te­grated Well­ness Re­sort in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico, sis­ter prop­erty to the ven­er­a­ble Ojo Caliente Min­eral Springs & Spa, an­i­mal in­ter­ac­tion ses­sions are just one of the many ex­pe­ri­en­tial ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered aimed at fos­ter­ing op­ti­mal health and well-be­ing.

Cur­rently, these in­ter­ac­tions in­volve ca­nines and chick­ens, both of which re­side on-site. Ca­nine ses­sions are with adult ser­vice dogs and pup­pies-in-train­ing from As­sis­tance Dogs of the West, an agency the re­sort has part­nered with to help guests learn ca­nine han­dling tech­niques and prac­tice spe­cific train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to pre­pare the an­i­mals for be­ing future as­sis­tance dogs, take walks with the dogs

or sim­ply en­joy an op­por­tu­nity to cud­dle with them. Dur­ing my stay, I had the plea­sure of spend­ing time with a pas­sel of five-week-old yel­low Lab pups, who loved to play and then promptly curl up in my lap for a nap. Be­ing around these adorable bun­dles of joy brought me enor­mous con­tent­ment, as well as chan­neled my in­ner child.

As for the chick­ens, the re­sort has about two dozen Silkies, who have taken up res­i­dence in a spa­cious cov­ered en­clo­sure. This breed is char­ac­ter­ized by silky feath­ers, which make them ap­pear like minia­ture fluff balls with tiny Uggs on their feet. They are very soft to the touch, have five toes, turquoise col­ored ear­lobes (how Santa Fe!) and a “wal­nut” comb. Silkies are known to be gen­tle birds who love com­pany. They like to chat­ter and to also make sweet purring and vi­bra­tionlike noises when they’re calm. This type of chicken loves noth­ing more than to raise a clutch of eggs, and as they are a mag­nan­i­mous sort, they’re not picky about whose eggs they are. There are doc­u­mented cases of Silkies rais­ing other types of poul­try, in­clud­ing duck­lings and goslings, tak­ing care of them as if they were their own.

I ad­mit I was ini­tially a bit ap­pre­hen­sive about en­ter­ing the Silkies’ arena, but with en­cour­age­ment from the re­sort’s hor­ti­cul­ture and na­ture-based spe­cial­ist Daniele Sim­mons, I gamely headed in­side. Twenty-five chick­ens greeted me. Some came right up to me and cu­ri­ously moved around my feet, as if siz­ing me up. Oth­ers were busy eat­ing ei­ther their feed or some veg­gies brought in from the gar­den.

Sim­mons in­vited me to sit on a chair and ob­serve the crea­tures, while she talked about them. I learned about Blanco, the main rooster, who as­sumes the duty of keep­ing the oth­ers in their place. He thinks noth­ing of peck­ing at them if they are dis­turb­ing him or if they are try­ing to eat food he has claimed as his own. Then there’s Wil­bur, the small­est of the bunch. As the runt, he was named af­ter Wil­bur in Char­lotte’s Web. Lemon Drop is ap­pro­pri­ately yel­low in color. And Princess, who is al­ways exquisitely groomed, has a royal moniker.

I be­gan pet­ting the Silkies, en­joy­ing the feel of their soft feath­ers. I laughed at their an­tics as they com­i­cally scratched around the dirt, then fed them a fresh cu­cum­ber, which they adored. Watch­ing their be­hav­ior, I was able to pick up on some of their cues and sub­tleties re­lat­ing to com­mu­ni­ca­tion, team­work and lead­er­ship. Fi­nally, I let sev­eral take turns sit­ting on my lap. Their docile na­ture had a sooth­ing ef­fect on me and I could see how such an ex­pe­ri­ence could lower stress and anx­i­ety lev­els. Be­ing with these chick­ens pro­vided me with an op­por­tu­nity to slow down and re­flect, some­thing I need to do more of­ten in my hec­tic life.

You’ll find seren­ity is a com­mod­ity in spades at Sun­rise Springs. Nes­tled amid seventy acres of breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral beauty with tow­er­ing cot­ton­wood trees and spring-fed

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