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Therapy chicken provides stress relief

by Maddy Chemers

You may be familiar with therapy dogs, but therapy chickens? One Urbana family has recently brought an emotional support chicken into their home. Katrina Junis, the owner of Model, the therapy chicken, explained how she helps people to calm down.

“It’s a hormonal thing. So, when you pet an animal, you start to secrete oxytocin, which lowers your cortisol levels. By petting this chicken it, on a chemical level, is making me feel more relaxed,” Junis said.

Model, the chicken. Photo by Maddy Chemers

On top of taking care of Model, Junis also runs a dog training program, Pupcakes, at the barn in her backyard. She has been incorporating her new chicken into training sessions so the dogs can work on avoiding distractions.

“We brought her out here to the class a couple of times and she was fine. So I was like, ‘Well, let’s see how this goes,’” Junis continued, “A couple weeks ago we went and did her very first therapy session that wasn’t here. She was at Rural King with us for like four or five hours, on leash and a harness, and just hung out with the group of dogs in the store all day.”

Rural King patrons stopped to gawk and meet Model, the Junis’s gift from a neighbor that had been left on their doorstep.

“He thought that my daughter would like to have chickens and we already had some ducks and we’d already raised a couple of orphaned geese,” Junis said.

Model has not yet been officially certified as a therapy animal, but the main requirements in therapy evaluation focus on animal behavior. Junis plans to keep Model in her puppy classes so both the dogs and the chicken can work on behaving themselves.

Junis said, “This chicken can handle herself in different situations. And now she is my go to chicken to show people and pull out for puppy classes.”

Junis with her chicken, Model. Photo by Maddy Chemers

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