Fierce makes me think of a behavior. Students may be fierce at times. However, teaching agriculture, I must inform students how to best handle animals so that they don’t become fierce.

Animal behavior is a topic covered in a few of my classes. The final project to the animal behavior unit is training a chicken to find a card in a deck of cards. Students have taken this challenge in many ways. Some students were able to master the skill quickly while others blamed their failure on the chicken.

Students are taught the process of which to have animals associate behaviors with cues. Students research Pavlov and Skinner as an introduction to the unit. Students are also taught how to handle the animals and prove their learning  of animal handling through giving chickens baths.

Students work with animals for about a week. Students first attempt to have the animals associate a natural behavior with the sound of a dog clicker. Students are able to use mealworms as motivation for the chickens. I have used all ages of chickens for the project. There are always successful students and unsuccessful students in every group.

At the end of the lesson it’s a bonus if the chicken is doing what it’s told. Students need to be able to properly explain how the animals learn and how to best handle animals. Proper animal handling enables the safety of the animal and the animal handler. Any production animal that is mistreated is not going to produce as well as an animal that is provided with the utmost care.

Animal comfort and care discussions are used as breaks for the students and animals during the training week. We talk about shapes of pens, how some horses can be afraid of their own shadow, and how robotic milking can change animal behavior.

I was talking with one of the parents of my students this summer who’s cows have gone to a different farm repeatedly for at times years. The oddity is that the cows, when coming back to their home farm, find their old assigned pens in the barn automatically. Creatures of habit just like most students.



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