Violet Hipkin

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Project: The use of pecking blocks to enhance foraging enrichment and improve feather condition in enriched colonies

Department: Department of Animal Biosciences (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

Working on a farm while doing my undergraduate degree inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in Animal Biosciences. I fell in love with animals and was exposed to many other local farms/farmers with their passion and their unique perspectives. In addition, I completed a placement with a large animal veterinarian where we visited and worked with a diverse client base of animals and farms. These jobs ignited my passion and integrated my love of people, farms, the outdoors, physical activity, and science. My interest in the agri-food sector, combined with my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences, inspired me to pursue a specialization in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

What about your research area excites you? 

Doing research in animal welfare excites me because it creates an opportunity to influence animal care practices on farms. I believe our world for animals is imperfect, and the goal of striving to better the lives of animals inspires me.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

My research investigates the effectiveness of commercial pecking block products to enhance foraging while simultaneously reducing feather pecking in laying hens housed in enriched colonies. This is of importance because lessening feather pecking can both optimize bird welfare and support sustainable, efficient egg production. Since the Code of Practice does not specify which resources best support foraging in enriched colonies, my research will help this deficiency in management practices.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Outside of the lab I love being active and outdoors. One of my favourite activities includes soccer, and I am a member of Guelph’s women’s soccer team. My other favourite activities include camping and hanging out with my dog and my family. These often go hand-in-hand as my family has our annual summer camping trip at Silent Lake Provincial Park.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?

One important thing I have learned from the pandemic is to be okay with taking time to enjoy your own company. As someone who prefers to live a busy life, the pandemic prevented me from my activities including team sports and work which resulted in an increase in downtime. For the first time, I was forced to spend time alone. Learning to feel peace when alone and seeking gratitude in each moment led me to appreciate the pandemic alone time and taught me the importance of a balanced lifestyle.