After living in Southern California for most of my life, I became accustomed to days on end of abundant sunshine. You know the kind where where it is so intense that if you close your eyes, it warms your cheeks. It wasn’t until I moved to Cape Cod, that I realized that lack of sunshine had an effect on me. I noticed a pattern of turning blue and sad come winter, and I didn’t know why. I had heard of seasonal affect disorder, but never in my life did I think that I would suffer from it. But I did. Like clockwork, as soon as the summer skies grayed over, so did my mood. That was “before chickens” (BC). Since getting chickens, I haven’t felt this way for a number of years. Chicken therapy worked for my mild seasonal affect disorder and it might just work for you.
Chickens have a wonderful way of making me smile. I just adore spending time with them and watching their antics. They are charming, curious, funny, and even sweet. I like to call them my rainbow of happiness. There they go, all different colors of feathers waddling across the gloomy gray landscape. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no feeling in the world that compares to those I get in my heart when I see the entire flock, happy to see me in the morning, greet me and say hello! Chickens simply make me happier. But is there any scientific proof that chickens could help with seasonal affect disorder?
So far, there are no studies about this, but I am going to hypothesize that it could be possible. If we look at science, seasonal affect disorder is typically treated with exposure to light via a light box, improved diet and exercise. Just these few things have been proven to have an effect on the “happy chemicals” (aka serotonin and dopamine) in our brains. I believe that keeping chickens allows us access to those treatments, sometimes without us even realizing it.
The Effect of Light on Seasonal Affect Disorder
They say that natural light is best for those suffering from seasonal affect disorder. Our natural circadian rhythms change over the seasons and respond to the amount of natural light that we receive. When we are exposed to more light more “happy chemicals” are produced and released from our brains. By just increasing the time you spend outside with chicken chores- no matter the weather- exposes you to more natural light than you would receive if you were spending time indoors.
When you go outside to open up the coop door in the morning, tidy up the coop, top of feeder and waterers this all contributes to the amount of natural light your receive. Later in the day, when you go to grab freshly laid eggs from the nesting boxes and lock them up at dusk, this all counts too. When you think about it, all these minutes add up. I find myself lingering too. How can you not when those chickens are so happy to see you?! When all is said and done, I certainly get more exposure to natural light caring for chickens without even having to think about it.
I’m not talking about a regular exercise program, although those are very beneficial for overall health and wellness. On the contrary, I do believe that every bit of exercise helps. Exercise, especially aerobic, can boost the release of those happy chemicals. Cleaning the coop, filling feeders, carrying feed bags, bales of straw, compressed bags of shavings, raking out the run, and even chasing chickens are all forms of exercise. Some days, chicken keeping can give you a work-out for hours. Deep cleaning the coop and run alone, usually takes me a couple.
Did you know that chicken eggs can be a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids? These fatty acids are great for your heart and circulatory system health and they also are believed to be a booster of dopamine transmission. Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in grasses and some commercial chicken feeds are supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids. Why does this matter? If your chicken eggs are full of omega-3 fatty acids, eating their eggs may be even more beneficial than you thought.
High levels of stress and seasonal affect have been linked. Escape the daily grind and stress. Spend some time with your flock and unwind. Relaxation with the flock is so enjoyable. It also gets you outside in more natural light, helps ease your mind of worries, and is a great outlet. Keeping chickens somehow tends to melt stress away.
One last note, I have noticed that many nurses keep chickens. You might even happen to be one of them. Nursing is a stressful job due to its mental taxation, physical and emotional demands. Could it be possible that we are onto using chickens as mood boosters in general? Wouldn’t that be something to prove to others the multiple benefits of chickens and how we feel on a day to day basis. Chicken keeping is also becoming popular in nursing homes and public schools. What do you think? Could chickens be the next therapy pet? I think so!