Thursday, July 14, 2016

Unity College Heritage Barn Week 7 (Georgia)

This week was my last at the Unity College Heritage Livestock Barn; and it has been quite an adventure! Looking back it was everything I wanted it to be and I feel so fulfilled knowing how much experience this position has offered me. This whole adventure began for me at the end of last semester, I applied for the position interviewed and was accepted! I filled out my college internship agreement; part of which was outlining learning objectives that I hoped to accomplish. I had no idea what to expect other than the job description I had been sent but I took some time and tried to pair what I thought was achievable with what I aspired for; here is what I came up with so many months ago...
1. Further develop my public speaking skills to a standard useful in future career settings
2. Learn to incubate and hatch chickens for industry needs

3. Expand knowledge of and comfort levels with domestic breeds
4. Better understand the daily upkeep and operation of a farm
5. Expand knowledge of animal health recording skills

I can safely say that all of my personal objectives were fully met.

Almost every week a tour came to visit the barn we had all age groups coming to check out our furry residents and I got many opportunities to hone my interpretive skills. I quickly learned the fasted way to get someone's attention was to offer them a look at our baby bunnies; and many of our visitors were impressed that Lars our youngest pig will come running when his name is called.

We collected eggs early in our internship and set up an incubator in the back office that required daily maintenance for humidity and temperature. Every so often we candled the eggs using a special light box in a darkened room to watch how the embryos were developing. Then I got word on my day off that the eggs were beginning to hatch, so of course like any proud mom I raced down to the barn to check in on them. I got to see the first few peeping out and the next morning a few had hatched. We had a great hatch and survival outcome and we were really happy that all of our hard work paid off.

Because the livestock require so much hands on care I got to get a bunch of experience from day one working with each and every animal at the barn. From grooming, to hoof care, ear tagging to castrations I got to get down and dirty with what it takes to keep the animals happy and healthy. If you ever need a hand flipping a sheep or wrangling a goat; I am definitely down to help! The pigs were their own challenge they can be big and loud and a bit rude at times but I think by far they are the sweetest animals at the barn; I found that if you are working anywhere near them they will beg you for ear scratches and belly rubs and reward you with happy snorts the whole time.

I found that barn work like most animal care jobs is not a 9-5 job its being ready for anything at anytime because event though there is a schedule of operations the animals rarely feel the need to stick with it so working at the barn means being flexible and up for a challenge every now and then. Also like most animal care jobs what you remember is the lovely snorts of the pigs but the majority of the work is actually wheelbarrows of manure all day everyday and constant cleaning to keep the living quarters safe and sanitary. For those of us who love the animals its definitely worth it :)

Everything we do also needs to be recorded and kept up to date from daily records on cleanings to hoof care and veterinary care. If we don't record something important or forget something that might seem small then the animals welfare could be at risk. So even though we come home smelling like poop everyday we know we did a good job and made a positive difference.

This internship was everything I could have hoped a college internship to be I loved waking up early every morning and heading down to unlock the barn, I loved saying good morning to all the waking animals, I loved moving them out to pasture each day even when they seemed to want to take their time getting there, I loved problem solving, I loved cleaning, I loved the bond that was built with each animal at the barn and the bonds that were built with my coworkers. I loved being able to do something good everyday and go home feeling tired but fulfilled.

So if you are looking for an internship this is one of the best!

Unity College Heritage Barn Week 6 (Georgia)

This week at the Unity College Heritage Barn the animals were full of wonder and excitement.
Many of our Incubated chicks left to go to new homes and we at the barn kept 6 young females to raise for our permanent group of layers. With each day we handle them more and more they have gotten less fearful of our presence.

The young rabbits are growing up and loving the enrichment that they are provided; especially hiding inside of the cardboard tubes; which are a nice snug spot for the growing rabbits to relax in. However, their mom Ziggy is getting a bit annoyed with being stepped on all the time. On a side note Maizy had two young babies this week! Both are a beautiful grey color!

Our two young female San Clemente goats left this week to head to their new home all the way in Alabama! They will be missed but we are hoping that they love their new home. Before they left we outfitted them with ear ID tags which was a really cool learning experience for us.

The pigs are enjoying the summer heat by rolling in their bath and grazing on all the great vegetation they can find in the pasture! However they are natural rooters and have dug holes everywhere ! This are ankle breakers that we have to fill in with dirt regularly but watching the pigs dig you can see how happy it makes them so its worth all the extra hard work.

For the past few weeks the whole campus has seemed to have a groundhog problem; which became a bit issue down at the barn because they were digging under the chicken fence allowing our hens to escape! Luckily the little rascals seemed to have decided to leave our farm alone and we filled in the holes for the time being allowing our chickens to remain safely inside the fence.

Only a week left of my internship experience and I don't want it to end! Luckily I am not going far so I plan to keep volunteering after my hours are up!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fuglebloggen Fra Follebu-ToppengÄrd (Week 6)

Last Post!

So this is it! We have officially seen the last chick leave the nest, they're all gone. It happened a lot sooner than I ever thought it would. Because the chicks are all gone and we still have until Friday to get work done my supervisor, Kathy and I, have been going to the University to work on writing a paper together regarding how much of the forest in Norway is protected compared to other countries and how the habitat degradation and policies (or lack thereof) have been effecting hole nesting, and other bird species. We are hoping that some of the findings we have in this paper will lead up to a study we are doing on the Northern Lapwings and that the possibility of coming back to Norway to do a second internship may be possible. 

I have learned so much, and I have met some incredible people, Kathy being one. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to work with her and learn from her what it's like to be a field researcher. She is from South Africa so she had a lot to tell me about being a foreigner living in Norway. She taught me how to measure the birds, how to handle them, she coached me through the work and it was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget. I have been encouraged to look into doing my masters and PHD here in Norway and I am really considering it. I still have to finish at Unity so I have some time to think about it, but the more I am here working with the people I have met and experience field work, the more I am loving the idea. 

I will never forget what I learned here in Norway. I don't leave until August 18th, but now it is time to just become a tourist and enjoy my time overseas. I will continue to work with Kathy on the research paper which I am really looking forward to!

With that, I will leave you all with a fresh set of photos! It has been an amazing internship! 
Lillehammer University's iconic statue

The second Northern Lapwing we caught

Adult Female Blue Tit

Measuring the head of this chick with the calipers

My supervisor, Kathy, and I

Over looking the "Peter's Field" Route, not all of it is pictured here

Upper Forest Route

Earlier in the internship, one of the Tit species nest

We had to walk down this stream during the "Peter's Beite" route

Another Tit species nest

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They grow up so fast! A nearly two week old Great Tit

Female Pied Flycatcher brooding

A juvenile Pied Flycatcher

Farmers let their cattle and sheep loose in the forest, so we ran into these guys on our upper forest route!

Juvenile Great Tit

Great Tit wing coloring (juvenile)

Measuring the nest of Field Fares

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fuglebloggen Fra Follebu-ToppengÄrd (Week 5)

It's almost the end of the field season for the summer and I can't help but feel a little sad that I won't be seeing these little birds every day. In about two weeks we will see the last of the European Pied Flycatchers fledge and that will be the end of it. I know I have said it many times before but I really can't believe that in just 18 days the chicks go from little, featherless blobs, to full on birds. It is a little bittersweet watching them grow and then saying goodbye since you know it will be the last time you get to measure them. On Friday, for instance, we measured a nest of Blue Tits that had ten chicks from start to finish, and when we got there on Friday one of the chicks had already left the nest, so we measured the nine others for the last time. It was really amazing to be able to see them change their colors from the juvenile brown/gray to a more blue tinted gray with the distinct white markings around their eyes. Hopefully all the chicks that have fledge and will fledge soon come back next year so their rings can be monitored and even more growth data be recorded. 

Most of the Flycatcher nests have between five and six chicks, but some have up to seven and others only four. We found a nest of seven arranged in a pretty organized fashion so that all of them had a chance to get food from their parents. These birds have a more speckled coloration when they are younger. The adult birds can be distinguished by their plumage. Males are black while females are a light brown. Both the male and female feed the chicks, although male Flycatchers are known to be polygamous, they will abandon the second female to help the first with their chicks. 

This post will be short as most of the work is winding down. There will be another short study done however which will be covered in the coming weeks. It's hard to believe that the internship is almost over! 

A Great Tit chick that was all grown and ready to Fledg

juvenile Great Tit wing, colors and patterns.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unity College Heritage Barn : Week 5 : June 20th-24th

And the Countdown Begins... 

At the end of this week I will have completed 144 hours of my 180 hour internship! That means I will only have 36 hours left to work, only 2 weeks of work at the Barn left. I will be living on campus for the rest of the summer however so that barn has not seen the last of me!

This week we said goodbye to a bucket of chicks that we had grown very fond off but they are happy with their new homes so we wish them the best of luck.

Our bunnies officially turned 2 weeks old this week and their eyes opened on Monday morning! One small black bunny keeps escaping the nest box to try to hang out with his mama; we are quick to catch his escape and return him to the rest of the litter.

One of our male goats Waldo was starting to challenge us more and more when we were transitioning him out to the pasture in the mornings to we started a new technique involving a spray bottle filled with water; reminiscent of how people deter cats. So far it works very well and is less traumatic for him then yelling at him or chasing him around. He is a big boy with big horns so its nice to be able to work with a well behaved goat then one who trys to use his horns on you! Other than the transfer times Waldo is a very sweet boy who just wants a lot of attention and snacks!

Our female herds of sheep and goats both have young lambs and kids that need more time socializing with humans so we have started sitting in the pens with them and letting them get more comfortable with us. At the beginning they stayed far away but now they are beginning to approach us but they are still a bit shy.

I am going to try to absorb everything I can from the barn before my time is up I will hate to leave this awesome job; there are only a few things in life that I want to wake up early for and the Unity College Barn has definitely made that list! I am even guilty of habitually arriving at work 30 or so minutes early because I am too excited for the day to start.

Unity College Heritage Barn : week 1

I began my Unity College Captive Wildlife Care and Education Internship right here at the Unity College Livestock Barn.
I began work on Tuesday May 24th 2016 and finished my work week on Friday. My daily schedule looks like this;

  • 8:00am: Report for Duty at the Barn
  • 11:00am: Lunch Break
  • 1:00pm: Report for Duty at the Barn
  • 4:00pm: Done for the day

The am barn shift entails opening the barn and checking on all the animals (Katadin Sheep, San Clemente Goats, Silver Fox Rabbits, American Guniea Hogs, Golden Wyandotte Chickens) health and safety. Then the daily work chart is checked (see image) here is the code;

  • FC- Full Clean
  • SC- Spot Clean
This white board has the weekly work schedule for each animal herd
Each herd of animals usually is moved out to our different pastures (depending on weather and cleaning schedule). And then the stalls are cleaned and animals are fed. Wherever the animals are moved fresh water is provided. In between cleanings and pasture changing different animals are given enrichment, training, or exposure to socialization experiences. 
During parts of our work day members of the public will stop by to say 'hi' to the animals and usually we give them a short tour of the barn. 
This is the outdoor chicken enclosure 
Here is our indoor rabbit cage for our three silver fox rabbits (Indy is our male and Ziggy and Maizy are our females)
This is our indoor sheep pen (it had just been cleaned usually it has shavings spread on the floor and a few enrichment devices)
This is our indoor female goat pen (this pen was also being cleaned when the photo was taken and usually has shavings on the floor)
This is one of our outdoor pastures; all of the pastures can be used by any of the animal groups this one was being used by our female goat herd. 

Above is our storage shed inside is extra fencing, supplies, and our delivery of shavings
The pm barn shift usually involves moving the animals back into their night holding areas and also usually includes a special project (on the first day we got to groom the sheep, on Wednesday we castrated two lambs, on Thursday we got our bedding shipment which we had to off load into our storage shed, and on Friday we groomed our adolescent female goat Tilly). At the end of each day we complete a daily log to record all the work that was completed. 
This is our daily log binder that Autumn and I fill out at the end of each work day
Here is a close up of the blank log
Above are Meg (Left) and Autumn (right) holding a female sheep to pull her hair as it is time for their winter coats to come off and their short summer hair to be seen. The pulling of the hair is painless and allows the sheep to be much more comfortable out in the hot sun during the day. Its a lot like brushing a dog but instead we use our hands. 
This is Tilly pictured on one of our milking stations she is happily munching away on a bowl of grain; we had just finished grooming her so she was getting a special treat. 
But with any animal work somethings do not abide by our schedule for example on Friday when myself and Autumn (another Unity College Intern) returned from lunch we found out that a chicken had escaped the holding area by a hole in the fence! So we quickly made a plan and captured the hen and returned her to the fenced in area and spot mended the fence. 

Each group of animals at the barn has their pros and cons, but the pigs and I have become fast friends; they love getting back scratches! I am also quite excited because this next week we are expecting one of our female rabbits to have a litter of babies which will be a very cute adventure!
This is our youngest pig; soon he will be old enough to become the mate for our resident Female Penny. He is very sweet and will follow me around his pen as I work asking for back or head scratches and will lie on his side while being pet and snort happily. 
This is me giving Tilly a handful of grain prior to her getting groomed. 
It is only my first week on working at the barn; an I am still learning the work routine and taking my time to get to know the animals I cant wait to learn more.