Downward facing … poultry? Chicken yoga is newest animal therapy trend

(Video by Ivory Ward/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Meows, barks and bleats have been common at yoga sessions in recent years, as animal therapy became a trend to soothe participants as they work out. Recently, a downtown business added clucks into the mix.

Yes, chickens. But not your average Rhode Island reds. These were Silkies, an ancient breed generally considered calm and friendly – at least compared to other chickens.

Missy Pruitt and Carrie Seay, co-owners of La Gattara Cat Café & Boutique, have opened a coffee shop that, eventually, will feature cats lounging among customers. Right now there are cat motifs everywhere – on mugs, on walls, statues – all things cats. The live cats haven’t arrived yet, so Pruitt and Seay decided to host animal yoga in the meantime.

“Animals are healers,” Seay said. “Animals just kind of have this way about them that they are attracted to any person that needs them the most. They just have that ability to know and be there for people.”

No cats or goats have made it into the room so far, but the business brought in puppies one week and Silkie chickens the next week.

Coffee shop owner Missy Pruitt says chicken yoga was just a funny idea. But she also says animal therapy offers mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits. Silkie chickens are known for their calm nature and fluffy feathers. (Photo by Ivory Ward/Cronkite News)

Pruitt, who founded the business, which is being transferred from a Tempe location, said chicken yoga was just a funny idea for a one-time experiment. It also was a hit with customers on a Friday evening in March.

The cafe hosted a class with Silkie chickens making their way around the room as yogis practiced their downward dog, cobra and warrior poses. At one point, one of the six Silkies flew onto a customer’s head, drawing laughs as it was pulled off peacefully.

Yoga practitioner Emily Wilkinson said animals help humans feel more connected to the world around them and disconnect from stress.

“Animals have a way to feel and calm people that is unlike any others,” she said. “How many people can say they held a chicken and it was really calming?”

Silkies are known for their soft feathers and relatively calm, friendly temperament.

The National Center for Health Research says animals help people in many ways, such as dampening anxiety, depression and loneliness. More than 71 million American households – 62% – have a pet. Other research studies have found people who have pets have healthier hearts, make fewer trips to the doctor’s office and get more exercise.

Related story

Seay worked with the US Doodles dog breeder and animal farm to bring in the Silkies.
Andrew Lawver, owner and founder of US Doodles, lavished care to incubate the eggs and raise the chicks to adulthood. He wanted to make sure they have a nice home.

“I raised the chickens from birth. They are perfect pets for anyone that has time for them, if you just want something to hold and cuddle. They’re very friendly and love playing and being held,” he said.

There was a bit of downside to the class. Pruitt took care of that, taking a wide broom and mop to clean up the small mess the Silkies left behind.

But Wilkinson said she was glad she got a chance to practice among the chickens.

“I had a great time. I couldn’t stop laughing. My cheeks hurt. I would definitely do it again and I recommend everyone to try it,” Wilkinson said.

Ivory Ward īv(ə)rē wôrd
News Reporter, Phoenix

Ivory Ward expects to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a minor in business and a certificate in sales and marketing. She has worked for Arizona PBS and Your Life Arizona, and has reported for BET Awards and Teen Choice Awards.