Chickens are good for you. They can be particularly helpful if you are feeling depressed. Thomas, 22, from South London, wrote to tell us his story

Chicken therapy helped me cluck up the courage to beat depression.

It was in 2013 when I started to feel different; I was 21, had a great family and should have been having the time off my life. Yet my mind was not realising this. It was like I was stopping myself being the happy fun person I used to be.

I was in a job I didn’t really like, was working silly hours and had few friends. Slowly but surely I went from feeling sorry for my self to almost constantly feeling sad. I couldn’t sleep, put on weight and had high anxiety.

Six months later I finally made an appointment at the GP. I met with a nurse practitioner and she was brilliant! After a long and emotional talk she diagnosed me with depression. I was referred to Bromley Mind, a mental health charity working with the NHS.

I started to speak with a therapist through Bromley Mind who started me on a course of cognitive behavioural therapy. This is a talking therapy, something I was keen to do, as I wanted to avoid medication. My therapist was great and taught me that I’m the one in control of how I think. I was taught how to adapt my way of thinking and how to control my emotions.

The key thing for me to was to keep my mind and myself busy. I had wanted to get chickens for a while so asked my parents if we could get them. Being the supportive parents they are, they agreed without hesitation. My dad was soon building the run and we put together the coop.

In preparation I was reading all the books I could find on chickens and found them fascinating. We decided on four chickens, one for each family member naming them Gladys, Babs, Ginger and Bluebell.

I didn’t expect chickens to be that intelligent, yet each of them soon showed off their smart and different personalities. (Don’t get me wrong they still come across thick sometimes). It was also interesting seeing Bluebell take command of the run and the others seeming to understand she was the self-declared leader. I could spend ages watching their behaviour and found it hilarious that they began following me around the garden; I had become the adoptive dad.

We have had the chickens almost a year now, and having a project that is my responsibility has really helped me with my outlook on life. Spending time with the chickens has been another form or therapy for me. My family has also fallen in love with the chickens and they are a great conversation starter.

I hope people take from this the effect that animals, and of course chickens, can have on the mind. Almost two years on, I feel back to my normal self. I no longer need therapy and have got a nice new job. I still keep myself occupied by getting stuck into projects. Currently I’m pursuing a career as a mental health counsellor, fueled by my experiences over the last few years and the joys of keeping chickens!

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