Generic filters
Exact matches only
9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Shearing time at Outback Station

Spring has sprung at the Zoo. The sun is shining; it is getting warmer. The sheep’s wool that has been growing all winter to keep them warm has gotten warm and itchy. The Ambassador Animals Team at Outback Station has been preparing the sheep for the springtime barber. Since the beginning of the year, the care team has been training the sheep for shearing. This is something we need to do to ensure the animals don’t overheat in the warmer weather, as they don’t shed their hair like the goats that share their home.  

In the past, we have called in a shearer to clip the animals. Even though the animals were trimmed, we felt we could train all five sheep to participate in their haircuts. We utilized positive reinforcement training to shape the behavior of having the sheep stand calmly while incorporating the sound of the clippers to being able to rub the noisy and vibrating clippers on the sheep’s bodies (without the blades). We then built up the amount of time. Next, we added in some different scenarios as when trimming, the trimmer might need to be in some sensitive areas. In the petting zoo, the three babydoll sheep were comfortable getting scratched by their keepers all over their bodies, even on their ticklish bellies. Since our staff are doing the trimming, we utilized the knowledge of colleagues at the Birmingham Zoo who have been using this method for a couple of years.

Choices for the animals – such as the animals communicating to let us know they need a break and we can continue another day – benefit the wellbeing of the sheep and our team and provide much flexibility. Which also means you may visit Outback Station and see a partially shorn sheep – a sign of sheep participating in their own care!

Christina L.
Lead Keeper, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl