With the sun blazing through my bedroom window and following the distinguished ringing of my alarm, it was time to wake up.
The time was 6:00am.
I got out of bed leisurely, in preparation for a long (yet enthralling) day ahead. Today was to commence the beginning of my work placement at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary. I had been pining to volunteer at the sanctuary for quite some time, but had always encountered problems along the way, including sudden transport alterations and exam commitments.
I was soon washed and ready, rearing to go. Dressed in my casual green t-shirt and black shorts, gladly ready to match my work (or hiking) shoes alongside.
I headed to the bus stop and approached Bolton ready for my first train to Preston at 8:25am. The journey lasted approximately 30 minutes, and I then caught a train to Rufford. A brisk 30 minute walk, where I was faced with extremely narrow pavements, from the station lead me to the animal sanctuary.
I was directed to the reception area, I rang the bell (which turned out to be louder than anticipated) And was welcomed by Louise – An animal career at the sanctuary. We had spoken a few times prior, she was even lovelier in person! I was guided to sign in and to hang up my limited belongings before heading back outside to meet the animals.
I began with cleaning out the stables, which house the resident goats and equines overnight. Throughout the day, the animals spend time outdoors – a necessary freedom to express natural behaviours.
This was a simple process of removing the old substrate, which was placed into large troughs and placed into the skip, and replacing it for new.
The afternoon feeds were then arranged, with the hay being placed into designated hay nets which were then placed outside the enclosure doors. Hay nets are an excellent way of encouraging natural feeding behaviours, they also help to enhance both mental and physical stimulation as the individuals have to work for their food.
The stables and their surroundings were cleaned. Alongside the stock room, which rooms a collection of tools, food and bedding materials. And situated on the wall was a feeding and medical rota tailored for each individual at the sanctuary. I was then tasked with cleaning out the resident hedgehogs. Woodlands take in injured hedgehogs throughout the year and nurse them back to health to enable them to be released back into the wild. Hedgehogs encounter all kinds of medical conditions, from weight loss, to dehydration and a loss of appetite. They’re housed in large plastic drawers (the most convenient material to disinfect) which are then filled with newspaper and hay, alongside food and water.
Rescue, Rehabilitate & Release.
Two of the larger, healthier hedgehogs were chosen and carried away into carriers ready to be released. All available drawers were prepared ready to house future hedgehogs, and the current hedgehogs underwent a full clean – The removal of wet newspaper in replacement for dry, and the providing of fresh hay, food and water.
I weighed and recorded the hedgehogs weights before placing them back into their temporary enclosures. This is essential to monitor any signs of drastic weight loss/gain to enable further measures to be implemented if necessary, to ensure that the individuals remain in good overall health.
Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals, and are therefore increasingly more active during nighttime hours. Some of the individuals were curiously wandering around the enclosures, while some opted to stay cornered into a tight, compacted “ball”. Fascinatingly, this behaviours helps to fend off predators in the wild as it acts as a protective armour. It also allows the individuals to feel safe.
I then cleaned the small chicken coop, refilled it with fresh substrate and replaced the old food and water for fresher alternatives. The sanctuary has a vast selection of resident poultry, ducks and a stunning, flamboyant peacock.
The rabbit enclosures were then cleaned to house current and future sanctuary residents and the underneath area was swept for general upkeep.
The goats (Bert, Ernie, Chips and Isaac) were then fed and fussed over admirably. They were highly inquisitive and played alongside Dolly the sheep.
The Goats are commonly taken around Rufford to aid fundraising efforts and have previously been taken into local schools to teach the children about animal care, welfare and management.