Meet Dr. Michelle Hunniford, our National Animal Care SpecialistAnimal Welfare
My name is Michelle Hunniford and I am a chicken scientist! I have a PhD in Poultry Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Guelph, graduating in 2017, working with Dr. Tina Widowski . During my six years at UofG, our lab was investigating the behaviour of laying hens housed in furnished cages. I focused on nesting behaviour – what it looks like in furnished cages and how we can improve nest design to better suit a chicken's behavioural needs. After finishing a postdoc at Guelph, I accepted a position at Burnbrae Farms as their National Animal Care Specialist.
I didn’t grow up on a farm but my grandparents had a small farm outside London, Ontario with a few beef cows and some chickens. Other than seeing them in the barnyard when I was six, I didn't come face to face with chickens again until I started grad school in 2011.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to work with animals. I read all of James Herriot's books and imagined myself a country veterinarian, going on adventures and helping save animals in rural England. I have always loved animals, so naturally when people found that out they always said "Oh, so you're going to be a vet then?" At the time, I didn't know there were any other career options involving animals, so I always replied with an enthusiastic "yes"!
Fast forward to my final year of undergrad at Queen's University. I was on the path to becoming a veterinarian when, in fourth year, I learned about the field of animal welfare science. It was the perfect mix of arts and science, combining biology with ethics, politics, history.
I ended up in the Animal Behaviour and Welfare program at the University of Guelph, and that was where I really hit my stride. I learned how to design experiments, use technology to assess behaviour, and keep asking questions. I was able to travel the world, talk about my work at conferences, conduct research in a different country, meet many amazing people, and take pride in being a scientist. And I developed my passion for chickens.
I took on the role of National Animal Care Specialist at Burnbrae Farms in October 2017. I am responsible for ensuring the birds on all our farms across Canada receive the same high standard of care. Some days that means going into a barn and scoring a flock for different attributes; training new employees; or updating our policies to reflect current scientific research. The day-to-day nature of this position is as varied and exciting (and also challenging) as the birds that we care for. I cannot think of a better use of my skills and training.
Burnbrae Farms has been a Canadian and family-owned farm since 1893 and has been producing shell eggs and innovative egg ...