Raising Chicks 101

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Inside the San Diego Zoo is the Aviation Propagation Center (APC), a facility dedicated to the care of eggs and birds, we met Bird Keeper Ann Knutson. She gave us a behind the scenes tour of the facilities and informed us of all the things her and her colleagues do for the birds at the Zoo. Ms. Knutson’s job entails everything from keeping records, to incubation, to raising chicks.

Photo 1

If an egg must be pulled from a nest on grounds, it is taken to the incubation room. A critical element of the incubators is their ability to control humidity. By controlling the humidity levels, keepers can control the weight and development of the eggs.

Photo 2

When a chick is about to hatch, the egg is moved from its incubator to a “hatcher.” Right before the chick starts to break through its shell, it takes a breath of air from the air cell in its shell in order to get the energy to start hatching.

Photo 3

Candling is an important method used to monitor chick development. Ms. Knutson turns off the lights and holds the egg to the candler, illuminating the egg to show keepers its stage of development.

Photo 4

Ms. Knutson and her colleagues record everything about the eggs in the APC, including weight and color. Keeping records of an egg helps the keepers communicate and share information about the development and condition of each individual egg at the Zoo.

Photo 5

After a chick is hatched it is moved to the brooder room. Everything in the brooder room is kept extremely clean in order to reduce the contaminants chicks are exposed to. This is also where every species’ special diet is prepared.

Photo 6

We met Christopher Leon, Bird Keeper at the APC. Mr. Leon is feeding a mixture of pinky and cricket to a raggiana bird of paradise. The chick had just hatched and was resting in the brooder room.

Photo 7

Meet Scarlet, a red-tailed black cockatoo raised at the APC. Scarlet was hatched with her parents, which is preferred (if possible) over the incubation room. Scarlet is about five months old and will soon be moving to Salt Lake City.

Photo 8

The costume that Ms. Knutson is wearing is actually a very important outfit for keepers who are feeding chicks. It prevents chicks from seeing them and imprinting on humans. Socks and puppets are also great tools to cover up keepers’ hands.

Photo 9

When Ms. Knutson is done feeding, cleaning, and caring for the birds and eggs at the APC, her job is still not done. All of the keepers at the APC document everything that happens in order to create a guide for the future and be able to share information with zoos all over the world.

Jade, Photo Team
Week Five, Winter Session 2013