New Hall has a long history of farming and grazing animals on its large estate, including deer, pigs, cows and horses.
Over the years, the sight of animals within the school slowly disappeared until the Preparatory School became the home to a few chickens and rabbits. Students and staff were eager to see more animals grazing on the school fields once again and so the farm started to develop further in 2018.
Many studies have been conducted, showing the benefits that being around animals, interacting with nature, and learning outdoors, has on a child’s development and wellbeing. There are many potential benefits to physical health, such as reducing stress and fatigue, whilst also helping build a healthy immune system. For many people pets and animals could greatly improve their mental wellbeing. Our animals here have already proven that they can provide retreat for children overcoming personal and mental health issues.
Confidence, relationships and resilience are also positively impacted by an animal presence, whilst some teachers have also seen improved concentration and quality of work.
Our Animal Family
The New Hall farm has expanded greatly and continues to do so: we now have over 2 acres dedicated to housing our animals, which currently includes 31 animals: 12 different breeds or species including some rarer breeds. Many of the animals here have come from rescues, but with lots of TLC from students and staff they are now thriving in an exceptional environment.
Links to the Curriculum
Throughout the Preparatory and Senior Divisions curriculum lessons can be linked to the farm, allowing for great outdoor learning opportunities. We also have access to many exotic animals that have made an appearance in classroom sessions. Art, Photography and even Maths and English lessons can make use of the farm facilities.
Some examples of topics include
- Animal diets and feeding habits
- Comparative anatomy and digestion
- Egg development and hatching
Animal Care Club – This after school club is offered to pupils in the Preparatory School one day a week. A mixture of practical and theoretical learning takes place, with topics covering animals we house on the farm, animals from around the world and other pets.
Animal Prefects – Year 6s have the opportunity to become an Animal Prefect: this role sees them helping to care for the animals during their lunchtimes, performing activities such as: cleaning, feeding, grooming and enriching their environment.
Animal Welfare Volunteers – Students in the senior divisions can sign up to volunteer on the farm during lunchtimes and after school. Other than basic animal care, Senior students play a key role in training our animals, helping to build enclosures, and future plans to start livestock showing.
Snuffles and truffles gained their fabulous names from a competition that involved the entire school from Reception up to Sixth Form and all staff.
These two gilts (young female pig) joined our family in December 2018 at 11 weeks old and have grown up around the students. The sisters are a mix of two rare breed pigs, Oxford Sandy and Blacks crossed with Gloucester Old Spots.
Senior students have worked on clicker and target training the pigs whilst Preparatory pupils love getting in the pen to give them a good groom.
Our trio of pygmy goats are all related and reaching the later stages of life but this does not stop them getting up to plenty of mischief. The previous owner had to reluctantly re-home these goats so the New Hall animal family welcomed them with open arms.
If food is available the goats will gently eat from any student’s hand, older children are able to enter the goat paddock and browse feed the goats, which always brings the biggest smiles to the faces of all those involved.
We currently house two Chocolate Ryeland Rams: Yoshi and Yorkie. They joined us here at New Hall at just 1 years old and are extremely friendly and love a fuss. Children can get hands on with the sheep, feeding time is always fun watching Yoshi and Yorkie get excited over any food available. They are great for close contact activities to help relieve anxieties and tension as they are extremely calm and gentle.
Reception pupils learn within the curriculum about the development of eggs and how they grow into chicks. Our very own incubator is set up within the classroom which the pupils can watch and wait eagerly for the first signs of hatching.
The pupils were lucky enough to see last year’s eggs hatch and our little chicks immerge and grow, all hens and cockerels now live with us here on our farm. These chickens are a breed known as Buff Orpingtons, a very large breed that produce rather small eggs. Animal Care Club were in charge of marketing the eggs, designing egg box labels and deciding on a price, the children then collect and date the eggs which can be purchased from the preparatory school reception.
All chickens are well behaved and confident around the pupils, making them great to feed treats to and even stroke.
We have a mixture of duck breeds of all shapes and sizes including runner ducks, crested ducks and appleyards. The female ducks are brilliant egg layers and produce the tastiest eggs that can be purchased at the Preparatory School reception.
Students thoroughly enjoy getting their hands mucky cleaning the duck pond whilst also getting to try their hand at a bit of duck herding.
The rabbits are very popular animals here at New Hall, one that everybody loves to see and work with. Students enjoy grooming the rabbits, providing them with enrichment and additional exercise opportunities. Our rabbits make great classroom visitors and are regularly used in curriculum lessons too.
Health checking is a key skill to learn when working with animals; the rabbits are used as a teaching aid to help children of all ages learn this important process, this is particularly useful for those interested in a career in the animal industry.
These little critters have become very much the famous trio, everybody who visits the farm wants to say hello to ferrets, and since arriving from a ferret rescue they have made quite the impression on students and staff. Their easy-going character means they have been able to visit classrooms in the Preparatory School, make evening visits to the boarding houses and even have a run around the Library.
One of the students’ favorite animal activities is taking the trio out for walks around the school, the ferrets and students seem to enjoy it as much as each other.
Our two Toulouse geese, Gwen and George, are some of the biggest characters down on the farm. They ensure anybody visiting knows that they are there: with all their noise and spectacular beauty you can’t miss them!
They were rehomed here from a rescue centre and at first were looking a little worse for wear with minimal feathers; but now after lots of care from our students and staff they look a picture of health.
They work well as guard geese, keeping any unwanted visitors at bay but they also teach the students how to behave round animals that are slightly livelier and demanding. In addition, these geese make brilliant lawn mowers!
Four Peachicks came to us in July 2019 at 6 weeks old, it has been extremely exciting watching them grow and develop, eagerly awaiting to see whether they will be peacocks or peahens. The peafowl have white coloration in them so are slightly different to the standard peafowl you see.
Since arriving here at the School, the peafowl have been introduced to association training: the Animal Welfare Officer blows a high pitch whistle each time food or treats are available, in the hope that they will come when called by the whistle. The peafowl now roam freely within the school grounds so keep a look out for them when visiting, they could be sat on a wall or perched in a tree!
The smallest bird species we have here on the farm is quail. We know little about them as they came from a rescue. The hope is to hatch out more quail and to sell their eggs.
For small birds they are rather confident and will happily hop right up to the students looking for food. Students helped to build an enriched enclosure full of live plants and grass; the quail love exploring, pecking and hiding in all of the plants thanks to the time and effort of the students.