The move to assisted living wasn't easy, said ELCA member Wilder Blitch, a World War II veteran, former accountant and poultry farmer. "Before Rusty came, I was miserable."
Staff at the Lutheran Home in Hickory, N.C., wondered if he, like other residents, might benefit from animal therapy, said nursing director Susan Young.
"Plus, he's a projects man," she said. "Having something to work on makes him happy."
His project? Rusty, a Rhode Island red rooster that Blitch entered in the county fair, winning a prize.
At 3 weeks old, Rusty was moved to the courtyard until "some ladies complained about a little poop on their pumps," Blitch said.
Rusty now lives on a farm and visits regularly. "I miss him," he said. "But roosters have a bad habit of crowing at 5 in the morning. And he's happy. Wouldn't you be happy with 12 hens?"
With help from the home's activities staff, Blitch is hatching a plan to raise chicks on the home's grounds in a way that won't ruffle any feathers — in pens he's designing with his son Willard.
Blitch figures he can supply up to 60 eggs a day for the home's kitchens.
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