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Ducks and Goose Case Study

What are the Patchwork Farm Case Studies?

This is a chance to learn exactly how our animals provide the children and young people at Chailey Heritage Foundation with multi-sensory education, therapy and personal development. Farm Manager, Lesley, has given us an insight into the incredible impact our animals have…

In the Classroom:

The children and young people like to have the ducks standing on the tray on their chairs, or on their laps. If they are in a classroom, a tray can be filled with water that the ducks can splash in; this adds an additional sensory element as well as the animals themselves which the children and young people enjoy.

The Largest Animals for Laps!

Our ducks and goose are the largest animal allowed to be held or stood on laps and chairs. Immediately the young people react differently; some love them, others are a little wary because of their size. If they are a little unsure, Lesley holds them instead so that they can feel the animals first. This can help introduce confidence, decision making and interaction development.

The Senses

Duck and goose feathers are softer to touch and firmer than chickens’ which make a lot of the young people smile. Depending on whether the birds have been in the pond or the water tray, their feathers can be damp which creates a great response from young people as the sensations and textures changes. If the ducks and goose have a swim, young people can see, hear and sometimes feel the water splashing.

When the birds flap their wings, it creates audible and visual experiences as well as the young people being able to feel the breeze on their skin. The smallest action can create a multi-sensory experience which is a great exploration.

Young people have a chance to feel the duck bills and goose beaks; they are cold and hard to touch but also smooth and rounded at the end in comparison to a chicken’s. If the young person can hold corn in their hand or on their tray they can feel the vibrations and movement of the ducks eating. This can be quite a strong forceful movement but is often received positively.

The young people really respond to the sound of the ducks and Lucy the goose. If they place their hands on them when they are quacking they can also feel the movement at the same time. The birds are also very noisy eaters when they’re in their pens as they push their beaks into wet mud and then take it to their water bowl or the pond the rinse and filter out the food.

Webbed feet and claws: these feel very different to any other animal. The claws are quite sharp, the legs are scaly and the webbed feet feel rubbery. Young people like feeling the differences between each part of duck and geese bodies.

So How Does This Help?

For the children and young people, direct interaction with animals through touch, the rest of the senses and just by being in the farm environment or around the animals can:

  • Increase motivation to engage in activities as they are generally more relaxed and focused: increase vocalisation to communicate choice of whether to hold or touch an animal or not, to move head, hands, arms, to look/focus and to be outside
  • Enhance social skills: interact with each other, staff members etc. and improve communication skills
  • Health benefits of being outside: not only growing confidence in the familiar Chailey Heritage Foundation environment, but also encouraging confidence in external environments
  • Lowers stress – very relaxing: animal therapy induces calming effects, allows some to open up and communicate more easily, others to sleep!
  • Development of trust based on the animals response and interaction that takes place: this can help to lower stress in novel situations
  • Multi-sensory: to name a few - various weather conditions, farm/animal smells, noises, textures and surfaces, buildings/cold metal gates, sounds of the animals…
  • Increase confidence: learning to handle, stroke, feed and groom the animals can increase confidence that can be applied to other people and situations. Increased confidence allows the children and young people to be more open to trying new things, and the presence of animals can also help introduce them to new environments and decrease anxiety; the familiarity of certain animals can make new environments less frightening
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