Throughout my childhood, I was given the opportunity to own a small flock of laying hens, which sparked my interest in poultry and the industry in Canada. Since coming to the University of Saskatchewan, I have learned the ins and outs of the poultry industry through the Animal Bioscience degree program, which has only strengthened my interest. Working as the summer student at the Poultry Research and Teaching Unit on campus has provided me with hands-on experience to put my knowledge to the test.
Working in the poultry unit has allowed me to experience many aspects of the industry. In the spring, the tiny day-old chicks arrive and are raised in the floor barn until around 17 weeks of age when they are moved into the layer barn. Raising the chicks requires daily feeding and health checks, along with vaccinations every few weeks.
I absolutely love seeing how fast the chicks grow and change, not only physically, but mentally as well. As the chicks age, becoming less timid and more curious, they begin to peck at your shoes and show more interest in what you are doing. The layer barn consists of around 5,500 laying hens, which involves picking eggs, feeding the birds, and daily health checks.
The poultry barns on campus are always busy with research trials. Part of the summer internship allows me to work alongside the graduate students and staff to help with the research. One trial ongoing this summer involves raising pullets in different lighting colours, specifically blue versus white light. With this trial, researchers are looking to see if the colour difference will affect stress levels, behaviour, and overall production of the birds.
As a summer student, I work alongside the graduate students and help with weighing the birds, taking blood samples, and observing behaviour. Being involved in the research has really opened my eyes to all the science behind the poultry industry. It made me understand that research is so important for raising healthy, stress-free, happy poultry.
Along with working in the barns, I also got to spend some time with the staff at the Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan organization. This allowed me to meet some of the chicken producers here in Saskatchewan. The producers are so friendly and welcoming. They are very passionate about their work and love what they do. With fewer than 70 broiler producers in Saskatchewan, many of the producers know each other personally, which makes the industry feel like a small community. This sense of community really makes me appreciate and love the industry more.
My internship has shown me that the poultry industry is far from boring. It is filled with research and is packed with passion, pride, and friendships from the producers and organizations. I am thankful for the hands-on experience the Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan organization has provided me through this summer internship. As the summer comes to an end, I look forward to the possibility of having a future within the industry.
Nicole Shaw is a summer student intern with the University of Saskatchewan Poultry Research and Teaching Unit and will be entering her fourth year of the animal bioscience program in September. The position is sponsored by the Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan.