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Emotional Support Chicken: Revealing the Truth Behind ESCs

Emotional Support Chicken

Have you ever heard about emotional support chicken?

If you’re emotionally and mentally distressed and looking for a pet that can provide you comfort, entertainment, and affection without judgment, chickens can be a good candidate for that.

But you may wonder how little critters can help you deal with your anxieties and problems.

Well, in this article, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about emotional support chickens.

In particular, you’ll discover:

  • How a therapy chicken can help you out
  • What breed is best for chicken therapy, and
  • What are the challenges of having and raising emotional support chickens

But before that, let’s define emotional support chicken first and answer how chickens can be emotional support animals.

What is an Emotional Support Chicken?

Emotional support chickens are basically chickens used to provide comfort and entertainment to anxious, depressed, or lonely people.

Sometimes, they’re referred to as therapy chickens because they provide therapeutic benefits to elderly, anxious, and depressed people.

Emotional support chickens are now commonly used in nursing homes, but you can also find them in rehabilitation centers.

Emotional support chickens

How Do Emotional Support Chickens Help With Anxiety and Stress?

Chickens are powerful therapeutic tools to fight against anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and dementia.

How do chickens help calm and boost a person’s mood?

In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of emotional support for chickens to humans.

It Calms Us

Even if some chickens can get loud and aggressive at times, some breeds are innately docile, and they can help us cope with our problems and calm us down.

For example, Nikki Pike from Calgary, Alberta, who suffered from sexual abuse, found comfort and solace in her mom’s hens.

Even if anxiety and her past still haunt her at times, she and her husband discovered that chickens could be a therapeutic outlet when she raised three young chicks.

They helped her deal with her anxiety and depression, and her family noticed that raising the chickens made her happier.

It inspired her to be a better person, and she found a reason to get up early and be active.

And it significantly reduced her medication needs.

When asked about how chickens reduced her anxiety, she said, “The feel, smell, and sound of chickens calm me down,” which in turn helps bring her heart rate and breathing back to normal.

It Helps Aged People

Emotional support chickens are effective, especially for men who are less social than women.

That’s why they’re used in elderly or nursing homes these days.

One example of how therapy chickens can be beneficial is the case of an elderly patient at Shadon House nursing home in Gateshead, England.

He was perturbed and kept repeating names over time.


Eventually, the staff realized that the names he repeated were the names of the hens he had when he was younger.

When Jos Forester-Melville of Equal Arts offered an old hen house and bought six hens along with her team for the nursing home, they were elated to see that the staff liked them, and the man calmed down and settled.

That sparked the idea of creating HenPower.

It was created by Forester-Melville’s arts group, and they expanded to dozens of nursing homes in Northeast England.

It encourages pensioners, who are now dubbed as “hensioners” to participate in poultry-related activities like art projects, singing, dancing, and, of course, taking care of the hens themselves.

When running the project, they discovered that men are more hands-on with their chickens, and some men who never spoke before now travel all over the country together in the name of HenPower.

Emotional support chickens brought them together and helped strengthen their bond.

Chickens Evoke Feelings of Home

Those who grew up in the countryside or agricultural environment get reminded of their past whenever they see and raise chickens.

Just like the nursing home patient mentioned earlier, many dementia patients benefit from having emotional support chickens because it gives a sense of familiarity and home.

It Reduces Altercations

Emotional support chickens don’t just provide comfort and joy to elderly people; they also affect their behavior.

Studies conducted in residential facilities that integrated hen therapy into their programs found that chickens at nursing homes can help reduce resident-to-resident altercations and antipsychotic drug use.

It also helps increase the number of visits the residents receive from their family and friends.

It only shows that emotional support chickens can help bridge the gap between people and families.

It’s Cheaper

Emotional support chickens are far more affordable than other therapy pets like dogs and cats.

Each baby chick costs $1 to $5, while pullets or young hens who have started laying eggs cost between $15 to $25 each.

Also, chickens’ basic needs like feed and other medical needs are cheaper than dogs and cats.

That’s why they’re a great option for those looking for affordable emotional support animals.

Chicken therapy

What Kinds of Chickens Are Best for Emotional Support

The best chickens for this purpose are the docile breeds like Pekin Bantam chickens.

This breed is naturally docile, friendly, and easy to tame and handle. They also love to sit on someone’s lap and cuddle with their owners.

On top of that, they’re tiny, making them extra adorable and interesting.

They also enjoy being stroked. That’s why they make excellent emotional support chickens.

Other friendly chicken breeds that could pass as emotional support chickens are Silkie, Orpington, Cochin, Australorp, Sussex, Jersey Giant, and Plymouth Rock.

These breeds are generally docile and sometimes affectionate with their owner.

ALSO READ: Docile Chicken Breeds

Baby chick handed to a child

Challenges of Using Emotional Support Chicken

Despite being an effective tool against anxiety and depression, it took time before the public understood and accepted the benefits of using emotional support chicken.

Some people had to keep chickens secretly because these poultry birds are banned in their area.

That’s sad and alarming for people who rely on emotional support chicken.

In fact, there was a father who was worried that his 8-year-old daughter with severe anxiety would revert back to her previous anxious state if her chicken was taken away.

Since it’s the only animal she’s not allergic to, and his daughter loved it dearly, he fears losing the chickens due to local laws.

That’s also the reason why Nikki Pike, along with her ward counselor, city hall, Alberta Health Services, and bylaw officials, are working together to change the local bylaws.

They’re aiming to help people with mental health issues who need emotional support chickens to be able to own them legally within the city limits.

Another challenge that may come up when having emotional support chicken is the odor and noise that may bother your neighbors or other residents.

Furthermore, a lack of proper waste disposal can cause the spread of disease because it can attract rats, vermin, and bacteria.

It can lead to various health issues that may affect both you and your pet.

Other Emotional Support Animals

Aside from dogs, cats, and chickens, here are other animals that can provide you with emotional support and the challenges you may face when trying to qualify these animals as ESA:


Rabbits are great pets with mild dispositions. And they’re adorable looking, thanks to their thick, furry coat.

But unlike dogs, rabbits don’t need daily walks or plenty of stimulation and exercise.

They’re generally easier to care for and low maintenance compared to dogs.

But there’s a challenge you might encounter when trying to qualify a rabbit as an emotional support animal:

  • Bunnies may stimulate odor complaints

Furthermore, they require lots of time and attention because they’re social animals who seek companionship.

Their fur also needs grooming daily because it can become matted quickly.

Miniature Pony

Aside from being cute and smart, mini horses are also trainable despite being stubborn at times.

They’re usually used as guide animals for blind people, but they can also pass as emotional support animals.

Miniature ponies can live up to 30 years; therefore, they can stay with you for a long time.

But you might still face some challenges in qualifying them because:

  • Their size may raise skepticism that your unit or property isn’t enough to handle them without any damage.
  • Accommodating a mini horse may require alteration to a housing provider’s operations and place financial and administrative burdens on them.


Ferrets are gaining traction in US households as they become increasingly popular. And that’s not surprising because these creatures are friendly and easy-going.

What’s even more interesting is they like burrowing close to their owners, which is so adorable.

That’s why they’re a good candidate as an emotional support animal.

But these are the objections or challenges you may face when qualifying a ferret:

  • The size and safety of the animal
  • It stimulates odor complaints

Others who can’t afford to care for and raise chickens due to lack of time opt for soft, vinyl emotional support chicken toys.

They’re funny and entertaining. And they squawk to brighten up your mood and give you support.

It looks rather funny but has wide empathetic eyes and a nylon vest labeled “emotional support chicken”.

Archie McPhee Multicolor Rubber Emotional Support Chicken Play Figure - 13 Inch, No Assembly Required
  • The chicken that is always there for you.
  • Going through a rough time? How about an Emotional Support Chicken?
  • An Emotional Support Chicken makes an excellent gag gift for anyone in need of support. Cool stuff like this can not be undervalued in trying times. `
  • We all need someone to lean on, but when you lean on this 13" (33 cm) soft vinyl Rubber Chicken, it squawks its support loudly.
  • It comes wearing a removable nylon vest that designates it as an official Emotional Support Chicken. Illustrated hang tag.

However, this emotional support chicken toy isn’t as engaging as a real one.

You can’t chase them, nor play with them.

Real chickens can encourage you to do different activities like feeding and building chicken coops.

But these toys, though a lot cheaper, can’t provide those entertaining and memorable experiences.

Man holding his therapy chicken

FAQs About Emotional Support Chicken

To give you more insights into therapy chickens, we compiled the common questions about them below.

Can a chicken be an emotional support?

Dogs and cats are the most popular emotional support animal (ESA) choices, but any animal can be a certified ESA, including chickens.

In fact, docile chickens are entertaining and amiable, and they’re also cheaper to purchase and raise than dogs and cats.

How do chickens help humans?

These vibrant, feathery animals help provide food and contribute to the making of good soil.

These empathetic creatures can also provide entertainment, and caring for them can help reduce loneliness and anxiety, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a docile and affectionate one.

What are the calming effects of therapy chickens?

Emotional support chickens can help reduce anxiety and depression because they’re empathetic and can detect different emotions like sadness and grief.

They’re also entertaining, and they feel like home, especially to elderly people who grew up in farms and agricultural areas.

Do chickens form emotional bonds?

Chickens possess the basic foundations of empathy, which is part of emotional intelligence that hens exhibit when they get anxious when their chicks are in distressful situations.

They do have feelings and emotions and can form special bonds with humans and be sad, happy, fearful, jealous, or frustrated.

How does chicken help mental health?

These feathery creatures can bond with their human caretakers and calm down individuals with mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

These people tend to have less anxiety attacks when they care for chickens and participate in poultry-keeping activities.

What animals help with emotional support?

Rabbits, birds, mice, hedgehogs, minipigs, and ferrets can also provide emotional support regardless of age.

However, whichever you choose, your ESA must be manageable in public and not a nuisance to other people.

Are animals good for emotional support?

Definitely yes. Animals can provide emotional comfort and social support, and they’re useful in mental health treatment plans nowadays.

Many individuals cited that ESA helped them manage their panic and anxiety attacks.

Chicken emotional support animal

Emotional Support Chicken: Is This For You?

Emotional support chicken helps enrich the lives of depressed and elderly people and helps brighten up their day.

It also helps bridge the gap between people and makes socialization easier, especially for introverted men.

Therapy chickens help them overcome their loneliness and connect with other people who value chickens just like them.

They’re also beneficial for those in criminal rehabilitation centers because chickens offer non-judgemental companionship and help criminals cultivate positive attitudes and outlooks in life, which leads to successful rehabilitation.

Isn’t it amazing how chickens and other emotional support animals heal people from different walks of life?

They’re therapeutic and calming.

Furthermore, they help improve our well-being and help us connect with other people.

There may be challenges in taking care of and raising them, but the benefits they provide outweigh the challenges and the cons.

Not all areas acknowledge the importance of emotional support chickens, though, so you may need to consult ESA experts and your local laws before getting one.

READ NEXT: How to Raise Chickens with No Land

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