Our Farmyard has been busy welcoming some new friends – three miniature sheep and a miniature horse! They are extremely cute and very fun to observe. Tracy, the Farmyard Manager, says they are “smarter, and have a little more of an attitude,” than our regular-sized animals. “They can be little stinkers sometimes,” he adds, before explaining that it’s one of the reasons why they are not housed with our regular stock. Even though they are so much smaller, they think they are bigger, and might challenge an animal not realizing they could get hurt. Tracy hopes that over the winter, we will be able to start designing a community type area just for the miniature animals, with signs so that guests can learn about them. “Most people just assume that the miniatures are babies, but once they’re told that that’s as big as they’re going to get, they’re shocked!”
While the mini animals are adorable, there are reasons why farmers have started breeding them smaller. “Part of it is that people are interested in keeping them as pets, but it’s also a great option for people who are interested in farming but might not have a lot of land to dedicate to it – you don’t have to have an acre of land to keep a mini cow, you could have a few yards and he’d be just as happy,” Tracy explained.
One of our Participants who works at the Farmyard, Belinda, took some time out from her busy day to take me around to visit the mini animals. On top of her normal duties at the Farmyard, like feeding and watering the animals in the Discovery Center and running the rides, she is also part of the Wizard of Oz play which debuts in November. But she loves her job – she is passionate about animals, and loves to teach guests about them. “She’s one of my best animal caretakers,” Tracy said. In the afternoon, she runs the carousel, which she enjoys as well. “I love seeing the kids happy,” she said enthusiastically.
First she took me to visit Levi, our miniature horse, who was busy itching his back on the fence. He is dramatically smaller than a standard horse. If you put him next to our thoroughbred, he wouldn’t even reach her belly! His parents were only 104 inches high, compared to a standard pony at 144 inches, or a standard horse at 216 inches! Belinda called him and he trotted over to us. “He has the smallest hooves,” she beamed. Right now, he is housed with his buddy, a goat, and they enjoy palling around together.
We moved on to see our three mini sheep, TammiLynn,Charlotte, and Jolene. “They’re all all girls, which is pretty cool, and they’re really friendly,” Belinda said. Mini Cheviot sheep like TammiLynn and Jolene are often kept by farmers for their wool which is soft and dense. Miniature Shetland sheep, likeCharlotte, are also prized for their fleece, which is strong, long, and comes in a variety of colors. People keep miniature sheep for more reasons than just silky-soft wool, though. Small flocks can be found in vineyards, where they “mow” the grass and weeds that grow in the often rocky and difficult terrain that is too hard for humans to reach! Belinda sat down with our three little ladies and stroked their soft heads, smiling. “They have the littlest feet, too.”
Come meet Levi, TammiLynn, Charlotte, and Jolene and all the other animals at our Farmyard. We’re open every day from 10 am to 5 pm though October 31st, and then weekends in November.