December 20, 2010 Jeanne Rust

Laying Eggs and the Foundation for Recovery

chicken I have often said that I would try anything that I thought would be healing and helpful for our clients. In the 10 years since Mirasol's founding, we have experimented with many cutting edge therapies, including animal therapy. At one point, our menagerie included a miniature donkey, a goat, and several therapy dogs. But ... chickens??! You couldn't blame the skeptics for clucking in disbelief!

It was almost by accident that chickens became part of Mirasol's residential eating disorder treatment program. Our central Tucson residence had a large fenced-in area, and one of our therapists suggested we get a couple of chickens. But not just any chickens. Gorgeous russet Rhode Island Reds, lovely speckled Barred Plymouth Rocks and snowy White Leghorns. Each one was a work of art! And could they lay eggs! I think we produced enough to feed the entire neighborhood!

Early last spring we admitted an anorexic client who weighed 85 pounds. My heart ached when I looked at her. She was extremely malnourished, and her strict vegan diet made it difficult to gain weight. She had been in treatment for three weeks when one morning she suddenly requested an egg for breakfast. We couldn't believe our ears! Somehow, by spending time with the Mirasol chickens, and witnessing how they were fed and cared for, she understood that she could eat some protein so long as she knew where it came from!

So in the end, it was one of our own clients who hatched an idea for a successful new form of animal therapy. The Mirasol chickens are here to stay. The women take turns feeding and watering them, gathering eggs and even cleaning out the pen. "It's messy and sometimes it grosses them out," laments Mirasol therapist E.J. Kerwin, "but they understand that it's part of the overall process of cultivating a healthy space."

Messy, but part of cultivating a healthy space. Just like recovery ...