10 year old Summer Farrelly loves chickens. In her words, “chickens don’t discriminate. They love everyone. My chickens make me feel happy, loved, needed, and special.”
It was this bond with her own chickens that inspired Summer to start Chickens To Love; a program that offers chickens as therapy animals for people on the spectrum and others who may benefit from a little feathery affection. With a little help from Community Lifestyle Support, Summer’s dream has become a reality, and now operates out of their local community centre. “I wanted to be able to help more people in my community,” says Summer. “I believe everyone should feel loved and valued.”
As well as being autistic herself, Summer has two brothers on the spectrum, Oliver and Finley, who she advocates for. As she puts it, “Autism is our superpower. It helps me think outside the box. It has also helped me realize everyone is different and special in their own way.”
Summer believes that beyond just being relaxing and fun to be around, the chickens can actually help people on the spectrum develop their social skills. “They have their own social groups, I can see their body language, I can hear the difference in their chirping while they are interacting,” she explains. “I understand the social world of the chickens. If I apply that into everyday life it makes sense to me… if I pretend the children at school are chickens, I can understand social situations better.”
Just this month, Summer became the winner of ABC’s Girls Change the World contest, and her program is set to be trialled in two schools. With people like her helping to build a kinder and more accepting society, we look to the future with excitement, hope, and of course, a renewed appreciation for chickens.
You can check out the Facebook page for Summer’s program here.