Grass Treats

February 19, 2013 | Tag(s): Animal Enrichment, Audubon Zoo Education
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
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An idea we had came to a successful fruition today.  That doesn’t always happen.  Our education chickens, “Pippa” and “Kate”, will enjoy our little success for days to come.  The Audubon Zoo Education department grew their own sod pallets for our small animal’s enrichment. Our first sod square was given to the chickens and they immediately started pulling out tender pieces of green grass and swallowing them up like a human slurping spaghetti.  Soon they spotted the unsprouted seeds and began pecking them out and finally they used their dinosaur-like feet to totally shred the grass patch into smithereens.

 Animal enrichment is an integral part of care for animals in accredited zoos and aquariums. Enrichment for animals in captivity is just as important as having proper nutrition and medical care. Animals need opportunities to run, jump, pounce, climb, burrow, dive, hunt for food, and explore.  Things in the wild they would do naturally. Enrichment keeps animals mentally and physically fit.  We make sure that our big animals get some form of enrichment every day, but we also make sure the little guys get it too.

Our chickens were given a nice yard, but within 48 hours they ate every green thing that existed.  We knew they needed to eat grass, but couldn’t let them out to graze or soon the whole lawn would be grass free. Sod was out of our price range so we scavenged flat tubs and trays, threw in some potting soil and grass seed and in less than one week we had our own little mobile patch of grass. 

We observed the chickens loving it; next we give some to guinea pigs, ferrets, turtles and more.  Each of those animals will enjoy the grass in their own way.  I am just excited because an idea worked for little effort and cost, but lots of enjoyment from the animals.  It turns out that animal enrichment is also great human enrichment.