Unconventional Comfort: Calgary sex abuse survivor fights to keep emotional support hens

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WATCH: A Calgary mother is struggling to hold onto the one thing that's helping her to cope with mental illness. The problem is, it's an unconventional source of comfort that's currently not allowed in Calgary. Here's Nancy Hixt with part one of her three-part series – Dec 18, 2017

A Calgary mother is struggling to hold on to the one thing that’s helping her cope with mental illness.

The problem is, it’s an unconventional source of comfort. And in Calgary, it’s not allowed.

Nikki Pike’s battle with anxiety and depression began when she was a child — that’s when she was sexually abused for the first time.

“I didn’t understand. I thought it was normal for everybody to go through what I was going through,” Pike told Global News.

The trauma would only get worse as Pike grew older.

She was trying to live a normal life: she got married and had two children.

But overshadowing it all was the ever-growing struggle with her mental health.

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Then, a flashback to her childhood – Pike remembered the unusual source of comfort she turned to during those years of abuse.

Pike’s mother kept chickens in their yard, and those birds became her emotional support.

“I spent a lot of time by myself with the chickens in the backyard during that time so they were a huge source of comfort and support for me,” she explained. “I just sat there and talked to them.”

Seeking that same comfort she felt as a child, Pike decided to borrow three little chicks from a friend’s farm.

Almost instantly, she said her mental health improved.

What was originally intended to be a one-night sleepover turned into what Pike calls a necessary comfort.

Nikki Pike finds comfort in cuddling with her therapy hen. Provided by Nikki Pike

Even her doctor was amazed at the difference and wrote a note stating the hens provide an important part of her therapy

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“It’s like they nurture my mental health,” Pike said. “They love it. They love to be close, they love to be warm. They want to be close to me and I need that and I love that.”

Pike’s family has also noticed a difference.

“Her ability to manage stress is way higher…the birds, the ladies have an ability to calm her and centre her, ” Pike’s husband, Nate, said. “If she’s really starting to have issues with her anxiety even just holding the birds for a few minutes makes a tremendous difference.”

But now, Pike worries all of her progress is at risk after someone complained to the city.

Calgary doesn’t allow chickens–it specifically goes against the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw because the animals are considered livestock.

“I think that it’s very black and white and I think that it’s old and there’s a whole grey area that it’s missing,” Pike said.

She’s been given a court summons and told she can’t keep the chickens. Their days are numbered.

“I can’t even imagine them not being here,” Pike said with tears rolling down her face.

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Officials from Calgary Bylaw told Global News there is currently no mechanism in place for someone to apply for or be given an exemption. But according to legal experts, that could be a breach of a person’s Canadian Charter rights–and that’s what we look at on Tuesday with Part 2 of the unconventional comfort series.

Unconventional Comfort continues Tuesday with Part 2.

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