Phillipston woman shares her chicken coop visits with her son via iPhone

  • Contributed photo Contributed photo

  • An iPhone in a nesting box lets Carole Gariepy share her visits to her neighbor's chicken coop with her son, Grant, in Gardner. Carole Gariepy

  • Grant Gariepy visits the chickens with his mother, Carole Gariepy, via iPhone from his group home in Gardner. Photo/Carole Gariepy

Published: 8/7/2020 5:19:51 PM
Modified: 8/7/2020 5:19:40 PM

Look what I received in the mail today — a book, “How to Speak Chicken” by Melissa Caughey.

Now, is that crazy or what? And, it was sent to me by Betty Martone of Florida, a friend I haven’t seen in 40 years or more. She read the pandemic article I wrote for the newspaper about my friendship with my neighbor’s chickens, “My Only Close-up Friends,” and decided I needed this book. It sure brought a big smile to my face and made me reminisce about our high school friendship in the 1950s and her support later with our special needs son, Grant.

Betty was always a very thoughtful person but I never expected her or anyone to suggest that I learn to “talk chicken.” This makes me want to tell about how my daily visits with treats to the chicken coup has enriched our special needs son Grant’s days.

Grant has made telephone calls every day to us since the pandemic started and Gerry and I have visited him at his group home in Gardner once a week, first through the window and now, since it’s warmer, we visit outside under a tree — masked and at a distance. (I can’t tell you how I miss hugs.) Well, it’s been five months and not easy to think of new topics to talk about, until one day I said to Grant, “Would you like to come with me while I visit the chickens?” Of course, that sounded like a great new adventure for him. He’s never had any connection to chickens.

How do I make the visit for him exciting while he’s on the telephone? Then I thought, teachers, doctors, business people are all doing their jobs virtually. Why can’t I learn to do it with Grant? So, I took him with me, by phone, and placed him in the nesting box and he listened to me talk to the chickens and heard their pleasant clucking sounds. I learned to become quite dramatic to entertain him, and at the same time it was entertaining for me, too. “Hello chicks, that’s Grant up there in your nesting box, so don’t go up there now ... Here are some healthy apple peelings ... Let’s see who can jump up for this piece of bread ... Don’t you take that out of her beak, that’s not nice ... Here’s a nice big piece for you, Mr. Rooster ... Ouch, you pecked my finger ... Here’s your favorite treat, chickies — animal crackers ... Wow, Grant, the white chicken jumped really high for that ...” and on and on.

Well, one day when we headed outside after our virtual visit, Ruth, the farmer’s wife, was standing there waiting with a bucket of water to bring in to the chickens. Of course, she heard my exuberant chatter while she was outside but she didn’t know about Grant listening in on the phone, and was thinking I’d really “lost it.” She gave me a strange look and gently said, “You really do get into those chickens.” Then I showed her the phone and told her about Grant, which of course delighted her.

Now, not only does Grant visit the chickens daily, but he gets to say hello to anyone who might be around the farm. It makes us all feel good to bring happiness into someone’s life. I can feel Grant’s smile as his life is broadened.

It’s so easy to call people to update them on your doings, things you hear about or see, and reminisce about days or events gone by. It brings a smile to both the heart of the giver and the receiver, and it relieves the feeling of confinement for awhile.

Now, I’ve got to read the book and learn how to speak chicken. I’m sure it will make me smile and will give me more things to talk about while we’re in the coup. Thank you, Betty. I’m still smiling as I write and wonder if the newspaper will publish an article after I read the book if I write it “in chicken.”

Carole Gariepy is an author and a retired teacher. She grew up in Hardwick and lived in her husband, Gerry’s, hometown of Barre for 35 years; they moved to Phillipston in 1995.

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