Tag Archives: degree project

Catching Chickens & Collecting Data

After considering the study design, pilot studies and necessary preparations, we’ve been running our preference test for a couples of weeks now. This means that a few groups of our chickens are moved from their home pen to the test pen, where they will be observed closely for a couple of days. Observations run through a live camera system and are executed multiple times a day. The results are our so called ‘data’ and play the lead role for my degree project. Analysing these data will keep me busy for probably the rest of summer!

A sneak peek into our ‘research kitchen’ – Keeping an eye out on both halves of all test pens

The idea sounds not too difficult, but it took some time to get the hang of a smooth practical execution. Because after each round of observations the chickens need to be moved back to their home pens, lights will need to be swapped and the pens cleaned before moving in the new groups. And also, how are you going to catch and handle the chickens, without causing them a lot of stress? Turning of the lights in the stables completely, turned out to be a magic spell to be able to catch and lift the chickens in a calm manner and move them into their moving boxes. Though it’s quite fun to do, it’s physically demanding, on one day you might have to catch and move almost a hundred chickens!

Any questions? Feel free to ask them below.


Saws, Drills and Hammers

Wait, what did I study again? Yes, you are still on the blog representing the master programme of animal science, haha. You may have read that I have been busy with preparing a preference test for chickens. Well, this is a big part of the preparations – the practical part – so to say. As the two sections of our testing pen should be as identical as possible, I am constructing smaller perches of which two should fit into one pen, instead of one large perch. After measuring, drawing and calculating, I’ve been spending many hours at the research facility sawing, drilling and hammering. Who would have thought this would be included in your masters degree? Not me! But I enjoy these kind of things a lot, and it’s a welcome change to sitting in class. Hopefully the chicken will be content with my handicrafts!

On the left part of my messy work desk, on the right chickens testing my first prototype perch.

Any questions? Suggestions? Want to volunteer building perches? You’re always welcome to leave a reply.



Last friday I went ‘piloting’ for my degree project. No, I do not mean to say I am considering a different career path 😉 I went to try out the protocol I had designed earlier this week for scoring behavioural observations. Which is usually referred to as ‘a pilot study’ or sometimes bended into the verb ‘piloting’. As I mentioned in a previous post, for many of us the degree project is the first time in our studies that we are actually taking part in an experiment. Luckily I followed the course Ethological Methods and Experimental Design last year. In this course we did several experiments trying out the different observational methods to analyse animal behaviour. This is really helping me now to figure out what type of scoring would be most useful and practical.

I met the chicks for the first time! They are about five weeks old now and very curious 🙂

You might have brilliant ideas, but it has to be feasible. Last friday I learned that doing instantaneous scan sample observations – in which you try to note down what type of activity each individual is doing in an instant – works for 10 chickens, but not for 32. Perhaps if you are well trained you might improve slightly, but each time I checked my paper afterwards I had somehow missed about.. well… a third of the birds. Ahum. So yes, it’s really great to do pilot studies and find out what works – and what doesn’t. This obviously was a bit too ambitious. However, I know that for my true observations the amount of birds will be split in half, which will make life easier. In the meantime the search for the perfect scoring protocol continues…

In one of my next posts I will explain more about the topic of my research project. Stay tuned! And of course, like always, please feel free to ask questions.



So I went to this class in zotero. After salsa, bachata and kizomba I thought it was time for a new challenge. Just kidding, zotero is a system to sort your references, like endnote. But don’t you agree the name fits quite well in that list of social dances? Anyway, the zotero workshop was hosted by the library and you had to sign up by email beforehand. I had received a reply with the question if people could come an hour later to an extra workshop, as there was such a huge interest. When I arrived it turned out everyone else had shown up at the original time, and therefore I had a private workshop in zotero.

“The librarian called it enthusiastically ‘Magic for scientists!’”

As I told you a few weeks ago, I recently started with my degree project. Right now I am doing literature research and soon I should start writing. You are probably familiar with the concept of reference lists at the end of a project or report. I knew that some smart software had been developed to make this easier, but I had never used it myself. If the project is not too big and the reference list not that long, I think it’s a small effort to type it. But for the degree project I expect to end up with a big pile of references, so when I saw the invite to the workshop this seemed the perfect moment.

“If you are aiming for an academic career – publishing in scientific magazines – you are going to love this.”

It may sound like a dull topic, but it was pretty eye-opening! The librarian called it enthusiastically ‘Magic for scientists!’. It takes a small effort because you have to download a programme, a plug-in and make yourself a web account, but I think it’s going to be extremely time saving in the future. It seems very user friendly and easy to learn. And if you are aiming for an academic career – publishing in scientific magazines – you are going to love this. Scientific magazines usually all have their preferred style of reference lists and by using a programme like zotero with one click the lay out will change. That can be a life saver!

SLU has some very useful information about the programme on their webpage to get you started. Go have a look and become a science wizard 😉 Still some questions? Feel free to post them below.



The degree project

Last week we changed from the first half of the Autumn semester to the second half. It’s hard to believe already a quarter of this academic year has flown by again. I am kind of sad that the horse-course is over, but I guess all good things must come to an end. However I am planning on writing a few more posts on the course and also I haven’t gotten my exam back yet… so might not be over at all. However, for now I would like to tell you about my new course. Actually, it’s not really a ‘course’-course, I am starting this period with my degree project – also known as master thesis. This project is accountable for a quarter of the total amount of ECTS in the master programme Animal Science, so yes, kind of important 😉

“For most of us the degree project will be the first time to actually take part in an experiment.”

As I see it a degree project is kind of a sneak peak into academic life, like an internship on a PhD-position. Even though you may already have written a thesis for you bachelor, for most of us the degree project will be the first time to actually take part in an experiment. As a student in Animal Science this often concerns animal experiments, something that should not be considered lightly. Luckily a lot of these studies are not invasive to the animals, but it depends strongly on what direction your specializing in.

Right now I am going through the registration process and am working on my research plan proposal. This means that I already should have a clear idea of what and how I am planning to do the research. As my project is part of a larger project, certain things are already decided while other aspects are still open to my own interpretation. And of course everything is guided by your supervisor.

I am looking very much forward on the work ahead in the degree project but I must admit that the beginning is a bit of a struggle.  In Dutch we have a saying ‘Alle begin is moeilijk’, which literally translates to ‘all starts are difficult’. I think there’s a lot of truth to it, or at least there is for me, haha. However, there is another saying ‘Een goed begin is het halve werk‘ which means ‘a good start is half the job’. My point being that the start may be difficult, but doing the beginning properly will pay off later 🙂