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How did the farm become a zoo?

Carrie’s Column: Many farms have a variety of animals. Do you have a zoo, too?

On our farm, we raise cattle. Our livestock focus is beef cattle, and our crop is haylage. But somehow, we also raise the following animals — peacocks, horses, donkeys and swans. Where did they all come from?

Starting with the swans, it all began innocently enough. You visit a friend who has some young cygnets —newly hatched swans — to share. You touch one little creature, and that little creature captures your heart.

It’s soft. It’s innocent. It snuggled right into me.

Before you know it, we purchased a whole family of swans — a mated pair and their new offspring. Problem, however: Swans need water.

Next thing you know, we dug a lake. No small project, but very much needed. Big investment, but we justified it with a needed barn project. See, we had a great idea to fill the lake: Channel the water off the barn roofs directly into the lake. It’s a win-win: We get swans and capture runoff water away from the barn’s foundation.

So, we added swans to the farm with the beef cattle. The swans took a liking to their new home on the lake, but then we realized that the swans are in danger to predators. Now what? 

We bought donkeys — sweet, innocent donkeys: kid-friendly, tolerant of petting and climbing, yet very protective, too. But because they are herd animals, you cannot buy just one donkey. We fell in love with a young jack donkey, who had a heart-shaped spot on his rump. He, along with his mom and dad, were moved to the farm to protect the swans.

Now being housed at our farm are this family of donkeys to protect the family of swans on a new lake.

Why not peacocks?
To them, we added a pair of peacocks. The swans had feathers, so why not add some gorgeous peacocks?

Add to that, horses. Most farms have horses, so we got a few of those, too. Why? Why not?

Our zoo now includes swans, donkeys, peacocks, horses … oh, and don’t forget the cattle.

Enough? We are not done with the list of animals. We cannot forget about the cats. There is always a plethora of cats at our farm. There are many barn cats who call our farm home, but we did not always choose them. Cats just “show up,” as people often “dump” cats at farms, thinking that they will have a good home.

While we selected the swans and the donkeys and the peacocks and the horses, the cats selected us. Where did all the cats come from? The cat story might be for another day.

Right now, it is time for me to stop writing and go tend to the swans and the donkeys and the peacocks and the horses. Oh, yeah, and when I am done with the start of our own version of Noah’s Ark, I also have to feed the beef cattle.

What’s in your zoo?

Tomko is a professor and farmer who writes from Rittman, Ohio.


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