In February 2020, we were so fortunate to have Cara come and intern with us! Cara spent several days a week here at the sanctuary attending to different tasks around the property, and getting to know the residents. We asked her to answer a few questions about her experience here:
What made you apply to intern at Full Circle? I wanted to learn more about farmed animal care while supporting a good cause. I heard wonderful things about Full Circle's mission and staff from my peers. It was also important to know I'd be in a comfortable environment that provided opportunities for personal growth. Full Circle was the perfect fit!
How did you prepare? Attending volunteer days at other sanctuaries helped me feel prepared. I also made sure I had the right gear — my aunt lent me her muck boots and I packed appropriate clothes for working outside during any kind of weather. I signed up for one of Full Circle's public volunteer days on the first Saturday of the month, two days before my internship started. It was a perfect opportunity to get oriented and meet everyone.
What was your impression of the sanctuary on arrival? Welcoming and well-maintained! Fawn the goat and her family were the very first residents I saw as I drove through the entrance gates. They're living their absolute best lives together in a spacious pasture. Seeing them started my first visit off with a big smile. The staff was friendly from the start! It didn't take long at all to get settled into a work routine and feel like part of the crew.
What things surprised you about Full Circle/sanctuary life? How hard everyone works. You hear about how much mental and physical labor goes into operating a sanctuary but I think it's impossible to comprehend until you have the opportunity to witness and participate in it. Caregiver Carley let me shadow her during her closing shift, which starts at 10 AM! She's tough, smart, and so kind to all the residents. On top of her busy routine, she made sure everyone was prepared for the weather to drop close to freezing that night. It made me realize that every day at a sanctuary will hold unique challenges and navigating those moments takes a lot of experience and grit. I was also surprised by how complex chicken healthcare can be because of issues created by breeding them for maximum weight gain or to lay an unnatural and unhealthy amount of eggs. Plus, they're so intelligent and active that they need various forms of enrichment in their lives to thrive. It seems to me that sanctuaries like Full-Circle (with skilled employees like Animal Care Manager, Kayla, and Lead Animal Caregiver, Amy) are leading the way on expanding and improving farmed animal care practices, especially for chickens.
Did you connect with any residents in particular? Casper the rooster was the first resident I interacted with during morning chores. His healthy skepticism of me (the new person) reminded me of my cat friends, which made me immediately like him. I'm sure that wasn't the outcome he was looking for. He's a protector and a good friend to his flock. He probably doesn't want everyone to know this but when you're inside his house during morning coop cleaning, he lets his guard down, eats a little breakfast, and shares some small talk with his hen friends. He's a good one. George Michael the goat is also very special and the amount of attention he gave me while I was cleaning his barn made me feel special too! He was interested in the whole process. He helped me spread fresh pine shavings, he inspected the zipper on my jacket and checked out all the tools I was using. Every few minutes he'd look up at me as if to say, "so, what are we doing next?!" Spending time with him was so much fun.
What is the most valuable thing you gained from this experience? This experience gave me a feel for the work-load involved in daily care for individual residents and the sanctuary as a whole operation. The most valuable moments to me were when it was raining or super cold during my shift and my muscles hurt from the project I was working on but I still needed to finish my task. It showed me my capacity and limitations — something anyone interested in adopting farmed animals should try to find out.
Should other people seek out farm sanctuary internships? Why? YES! I think an animal care internship is the most important first step you can take if you want to work with farmed animals at some point in your life. It will lay a strong foundation that will be incredibly helpful as you continue to learn. Interning at a sanctuary will enable you to have a direct, positive impact on non-human animals' lives while supporting a team of people that work hard every single day! It will fill your heart with happiness. Do it!