Our handy office shelf broke, so we fixed it!
Our handy office shelf broke, so we fixed it!
Most of the education work we animal keepers are asked to do happens on museum grounds in the form of programs, events and blog posts. Every once in a while something fun pops up and one of us gets to go out into the world to spread our knowledge to the sponge-like minds of eager children and adults alike.
Well, maybe that’s pushing things a bit. This event wasn’t as much about “spreading knowledge” and “eager children” as much as it was about a 4 hour, 200+ person career fair for 8th graders. Think of speed dating but with potential career paths rather than potential dates.
First things first, I needed to collect a bunch of things from around the office to bring with me that showcase what animal keepers do.
Next I asked my fellow keepers what tools or objects represent their jobs best.
My favorite responses: “fecal cups!!!” “keys” and “my clicker.”
The day of the fair arrived and I set up my table. This was all happening at Neal Middle School, a local magnet school that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math.
The kids came in groups of 2 -3 classes at a time. I was surprised and really happy to see how many of these students were dressed in suits and ties or conservative business attire and even more so by the number that, without any trepidation, approached me, shook my hand and introduced themselves.
These two boys stuck around for a while and asked so many great questions about the job that I asked for a photo for the blog!
I was one of ten careers being represented that morning. The others were the Boy Scouts of America, the Mayor’s Office, a pilot for US Airways, Habitat for Humanity, a Duke University pediatric social worker, the headmistress of a Montessori School, Durham Technical Community College, “Work Smart” a local IT outsourcing company, and the owner of a small business named, “The Art of Style.”
Overall, it was far more tiring than my typical Farmyard morning, but totally worth it. The kids were awesome, the teachers appreciative and the other careers present had some amazing stories to share. I’m very glad I got to spend a morning with them all!
This happened. Here’s a link to the previous post with the question.
Bugsy, our Holland Lop rabbit, lives in the education holding room and seems to shed large amounts of fur every 3 months and sheds less during the months in between. He is in constant need of brushing. The dead hair that easily pulls off of him in small tufts is typically a very light grey; which strikes me as silly since he’s a black bunny. Bugsy gets brushed three times a week and he doesn’t seem to mind it (more often than not he ends up falling asleep in my lap).
Our Jersey steer, Max, is a picky eater. Unlike most bovine, which will eat anything you hand them, Max really only eats his hay and steer chow (breakfast cereal for cattle). Keepers Kent and Jill and I have been working extra hard since last summer to sneak extra pieces of training foods into his giant mouth, just to get him to try something new.
For training reasons, it’s a good idea for Max to learn to eat foods that are more portable than an armload of hay. We’ve been the most successful thus far with dried fruits, but only if Max is in the mood. Usually, Max takes a tiny nibble of the new treat and turns his nose up at it, if he tries it at all. The rest of the farmyard animals (pigs and Ducky, included!) are happy to much down a “cookie” that’s specially made for farm animals, while Max fires them back out of his mouth covered in steer spit without even tasting them.
Until recently, anyway. Here’s a short, shaky cell phone video of Max FINALLY trying (and liking) a farmyard cookie…or three.
Please don’t feed the animals anything! Even if it seems harmless, like loose hay off the ground or grass or leaves, could potentially make them very ill. Leave feeding the animals to us keepers, it’s the one part of our job that doesn’t involve cleaning poop!
Since the arrival of our 4 alpacas, we’ve had many people inquire about our sheep. A member of our farrier‘s family (the man who comes out to trim Lightning’s hooves) was very excited to provide the retirement home for our old ladies. They now live about an hour from Durham on a few acres of grass with a roomy stall they can access at any time. Their only jobs are to mow the lawn and to look pretty.
Our farrier, Ron, was here a couple weeks ago and he told me the sheep have some new companions! They initially moved in with a couple goats (one of which just had twins!) but just recently, two older rams with very curly horns joined them! Ron couldn’t remember what breed the rams were, but he said one of them had horns that curled around in two full circles, kind of like this guy:
Have you ever wandered into the farmyard and asked yourself, “Why doesn’t the duck simply fly away?”
There are three answers:
1. He does, sometimes. As you can see here in an older post.
2. He seasonally has wing feathers trimmed to help keep him down on the ground.
3. At nearly 11 pounds, he’s a little bit too chubby to really get off the ground.
In the early spring and fall, Ducky molts (loses) his old feathers and grows a nice new set in. This would prepare him for long, seasonal migration flights, if he were a wild duck. These young feathers, called ‘blood’ or ‘pin’ feathers, have a great blood supply and birds need to be handled carefully when they’re coming in. Once the pin feathers grow out completely into flight feathers, we can safely trim them back to keep our duck grounded.
“Accession” is a word the zoological world uses to mean, “adding to.” It’s the term applied to newly acquired individuals to a museum/zoo/aquarium’s collection. We don’t have a large turnover in our collection at the museum. Every year we lose some animals due to old age, health problems, or transfers to other institutions and we gain a couple, but our collection stays at about the same number.
Because we don’t take in new animals very often, I found it interesting to learn that the animal keepers here each have a sort of “buddy animal” that joined the animal department at roughly the same time they did.