Parker Jewish Institute’s “RentACoop” Chick Hatching Program helps residents reduce stress, boost spirits, and gives them a fun connection with nature. RentACoop rents chickens for 4- or 12-week periods, providing all the equipment necessary for a successful program, including incubators and brooders for chick hatching. The program provides a rich educational experience that reminds residents how baby chickens are born, and about the evolution of change throughout their lifecycle.
Founders Diana and Tyler Phillips started RentACoop in 2012, just a few years out of college. Back then it was simply a chicken coop rental business. They’ve since added a Chick Hatching Program and have started manufacturing their own supplies. Today, with offices in Flemington, New Jersey and Germantown, Maryland, RentACoop has dozens of clients across the east coast, including schools, nursing homes, and other big institutions.
According to Michael N. Rosenblut, president and CEO of Parker Jewish Institute, “My absolute favorite part of this program is visiting residents as they interact with the chicks, and seeing their faces light up. It’s especially effective as a mood elevator for our long-term residents,” Rosenblut added.
Alycia D’avino and Kathleen Keegan, members of the therapeutic recreation team, pitched the idea to Rosenblut and he approved. According to both directors, it’s proven that various forms of “pet therapy” have beneficial effects on human emotions, especially for older adults.
In mid-October, RentACoop delivered “The Brooder” to Parker Jewish Institute, which is described as a baby chicken’s first home. Along with The Brooder came two newly hatched chicks. Parker’s staff and residents started a “Name That Chick” contest and suggested dozens of names for the two chicks already born and those yet to be hatched. The two already hatched were named Peanut Butter and Jelly! Six newly laid eggs were part of the package, and they were placed in RentACoop’s Mini Incubator; they were expected to be hatching on or about Tuesday, October 30.
Residents became attached to Peanut Butter and Jelly, and asked what happens to them after the program is finished. Yes, RentACoop brings all the chicks back to their farm, and raises them until they are of age to lay eggs. At this point they go into RentACoop’s program to provide the healthiest and freshest eggs to their various clients.
D’avino and Keegan’s “Chicken Coop Club” meets once each week, so residents can monitor the growth, markings, and unique characteristics of each chick. They put eggs on a special platform called a Candling Light, so all can see what progress is being made inside. Residents don’t feed the chicks, but staff takes the little ones out of their brooder and place them in a large, octagon-shaped cardboard coral, allowing them to roam free, so residents can observe and interact with them.
Parker even allows residents to pick chicks up and sing to them. Of course, residents wash their hands after handling the birds. D’avino said, “It’s a great activity and I know that it really relieves stress and boredom, plus it gives residents a sense of purpose and connection with nature.” Keegan added, “The residents are excited and they’re looking forward to watching the chicks hatch and emerge from their eggs.”
The relatively inexpensive program — $220 for four weeks — comes complete with the following: one incubator; a bunch of fertile eggs; two chicks; one Candling Light; one Brooder (cage); feed and bedding; and a handbook.
The four-week program ends in mid-November. Kathleen Keegan said they will discuss the program at an upcoming Residents Council meeting, and if the residents would like to do it again, Parker will bring RentACoop back for another four-week run! For more information, send inquiries to email@example.com.