Assisted-living residents waiting for chicks to hatch

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Diane Mitchell underestimated the popularity of the springtime project she began three years ago. She is activities director at Wilburn Gardens, an assisted-living facility in Spotsylvania County, and knows the healing power of animals.

So she borrowed an incubator and two dozen eggs from a local farmer, set them on a table in the lobby and hoped for the best.

The visits started. Residents peeked inside a hundred times a day. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren wanted to see, too. Children had something to talk about with elderly parents who struggled to remember the past. At night, nurses eagerly volunteered to look after the artificial nest.

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