As It Happens

Massachusetts retirees knit tiny sweaters to warm backyard chickens — and your heart

When a group of Boston retirees learned that their feathered next door neighbours were too cold to lay eggs, they busted out their needles and got to work.
Nancy Kearns, as resident of Fuller Village retirement home holds a rooster native to Malaysia as the bird is fitted with one of the sweaters she and her knitting group made for them. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

This story was published on March 14, 2017.

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When a group of Boston retirees learned that their feathered next-door neighbours were too cold to lay eggs, they busted out their needles and got to work.

Soon enough, the Fuller Village retirement home's knitting club had produced a dozen tiny, colourful sweaters for the chickens of the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust in the Boston suburb of Milton.

"When we went to visit the Wakefield estate and gingerly put the sweaters on the chickens and then put them on the ground, they just sort of trotted away like they were in a fashion show," retiree Nancy Kearns told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I think they liked showing them off."

Prince Peep, a rooster native to Malaysia, wears a sweater at Fuller Village retirement home in the Boston suburb of Milton. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

It all started with a request from Erica Max, director of the estate, which sometimes hosts tours and learning sessions for school children. 

"She was telling the children that they have a miniature rooster that comes from Malaysia and this breed of rooster is used to warm climates and so he's very cold. Even in the summer, he is shivering and she was worried about him, and some of her chickens are more fragile than others, and we were kind of expecting a cold winter," Kearns said.

"And just for the fun of it she asked me if any of our knitters would be able to make a sweater. So of course we all laughed at the idea."

But then she did some research and discovered that chicken sweaters are, indeed, a thing. She even found patterns online. 

"Anyway, we got started and despite the fact that our neighbours thought we were a little bit silly, it worked out fine."

Knitting sweaters for chickens sounds like a joke, but a plucky group of retirees in suburban Boston has hatched a plan to keep poultry warm during the New England winter. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

The chickens appear to benefiting from the endeavour, too. Max says egg production has jumped.

But Nearns said the project isn't just for the birds. 

"We feel that we're living in kind of a politically rough time right now with a lot of worries and that people needed a fun story that showed two communities working together to benefit chickens," she said. "What could be better than that?"​


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