My 4 year old son has Aspergers, and let’s just say that despite our best efforts his social calendar mainly involves his siblings so far. His sometimes incessant ramblings about math, Minecraft, and National Geographic combined with a tendency to tantrum if “the rules” are not followed leave his preschool peers alarmed, confused, annoyed or a combination of all three.
Despite my certainty that Adam is destined for greatness someday, I do sometimes worry that he will be lonely, which is why his enthusiasm for our pet chickens came as a delightful surprise. But what has been even better is our chickens’ enthusiasm for Adam.
Adam can ramble at length to our chickens about the latest book he’s been reading or a new discovery he made in Minecraft, and those ladies are going to listen. When I occasionally send Adam out of a room because he’s starting to get hysterical over something, I often find him cuddling a chicken outside a few minutes later. But it’s not a one-sided relationship – among the many facts lodged in his brain, Adam also knows each chicken’s favorite treat, down to “piece of banana rolled in chick starter” versus “small pieces of grass and sunflower seeds.” Adam and the girls can often be found hanging out in the driveway, on the kids’ roller coaster, or even huddled under a bush in the garden, with Hank or Buffy sitting in his lap while he keeps count. “Hank sat in my lap for 181 seconds today! That’s a 40 second increase from last time!” Adam will excitedly exclaim upon coming inside. Several times a day, the chickens come right to the front door and peer inside, as if they’re waiting for attention (or food). Most of the time, Adam is the one happy to provide both.
These chickens are turning into the easiest pets we’ve ever dreamed of, thanks to free ranging and a portable coop. But their value as companions far outweighs any eggs they are going to lay (though we’re all anxiously awaiting the day). Kind of jokingly, I googled “chicken therapy” the other day and was stunned at the first dozen or so entries that popped up. While we were looking for pets, chickens were busy becoming popular therapists to the elderly, autistic and those with Alzheimer’s. Who knew?
Yesterday, Adam was excitedly describing to me his latest adventures with Hank, our Dark Brahma, when James interjected, “Hey, Hank’s my chicken.” Adam replied, “I know that. Hank’s just my friend!”