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Animal Enrichment: A Green Chimneys Perspective

June 22, 2017

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October 21, 2015

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Among the many facets of caring for farm animals and wildlife at Green Chimneys is animal enrichment. The term is often misunderstood as devising ways to keep animals “busy” but in true practice, it allows experts to assess each species’ environment and activities to consider what elements will best support natural behaviors for the good of each being.

“Enrichment is an important and fun topic. Those of us who work with animals in any area can continuously assess how we do what we do and if we can make improvements to each animal’s well-being,” explains Michael Kaufmann, director of both the Farm & Wildlife Center and The Sam and Myra Ross Institute at Green Chimneys. “The behavioral profile of each animal, their expected social grouping, and their natural habitat give us strong clues as to what makes them thrive.”

For a sheep living in a herd in a pasture, life is enhanced simply by being part of a herd in a natural setting, grazing, walking, occasionally moving into the barn, etc. Adding a ball to the pasture is meaningless. For larger animals living in a compatible social group, just being able to graze and move about freely in a larger area, is appropriate enrichment.

For animals that live in cages such as a lizard, guinea pig or even our birds of prey, one way we can contribute to their well-being is with exhibit design. Size of habitat, quality or usefulness of the space, variety of substrates, levels, and complexities encourage important natural behaviors such as climbing, flying, hiding, body care, bathing and playing.

We partner with horses, llamas, camels, dogs and cows, to name a few, for animal-assisted activities with children so investing in their basic socialization and relationship-building can also enrich their quality of life. When a new animal joins our farm, a team of experts considers where the animal came from, the role it may play with our children, and what we need to provide to ensure its well-being; a process that will be revisited time and again throughout an animal’s life at Green Chimneys.

Learn more about best practices in leading nature-based education programs >

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