I began my post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan where I received my B.Sc. in Animal Bioscience. During my undergraduate career, I was actively involved in a local Pony Club where I learned about horse management and training. As I advanced through the levels, I began to teach the younger members and then became a junior examiner. It is through this experience that I developed an interest in animal behaviour. Through my university classes, I became increasingly interested in how animal behaviour can be applied to improve the welfare of livestock. As such, I seized the opportunity to do my M.Sc. with Dr. Widowski researching the welfare implications of poultry housing.
I will be focusing on young laying hens, called pullets, and observing them in different housing systems, as they spend approximately the first 17 weeks of their lives in these rearing systems. It is during this time that pullets learn how to utilize their environment, and develop bone strength through various forms of exercise. I will be comparing four different types of systems: a modified floor system with provided enrichments such as perches, a caged system that opens onto litter when the birds are six weeks old, an enriched caged system with perches and platforms that opens onto litter when the pullets are six weeks old, and an aviary system with platforms and perches available to the chicks immediately. I will evaluate these systems to see which ones allow for the most positive behavioural expression and best vertical space utilization, to develop an understanding of which system may be best for the pullets. My hope is that this research will be directly applied to new and existing pullet housing to not only improve bird welfare but to better prepare these birds for their respective type of commercial housing.