Our farm, like most farms, is in a constant state of change. New animals move in or are born, seasons change, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest, all of these things change your chores and routine and for young children this can be jarring.
Bringing a new animal onto the farm is much like bringing home a new baby, especially if it is a whole new species of animal. New routines need to be established, and the animals needs to be introduced to any person or animal that they will come in contact with often. It’s an adjustment for the farm’s human and animal residents… new and old.
For small children some animals can be intimating. This is a problem that we are running to with Big B and the goats. Big B has an extreme fear of large dogs. There was a large dog that lived at one of the houses in front of us last year. He was only a puppy, but he was huge, and would jump on people. At first the owner didn’t pin him, and after we complained the owner had terrible trouble keeping him pinned no matter how hard he tried, so the dog kept coming onto our property. Big B was terrified of the dog and for a long time, until the puppy went to live at a new home, Big B flat out refused to go outside. Now, almost a year later, Big B still has trouble with big dogs, and because of the goats’ size, he is also scared of the them. He wants to spend time with them. He loves feeding them and he asks daily if we can go “walk” the goats, which consists of walking around their pasture while they follow us, but once actually in the pasture, after a short time of having them in his face, he starts to get nervous and panics. We are working on it daily by exposing him to them in short spurts and having him interact with them from outside of the fence, but I can see that it’s going to be some time before he is completely comfortable with them. I also know this is only one of the many adjustments that Big B and Little B will have to make over the next few years.
Advice on Introducing Children to New Animals:
- Children, especially young children, should be introduced to the new animals slowly. Don’t put them around the animal for long periods of time in the beginning. The animal needs time to get used to the child as well. Remember this is a change for the animal and they may behave out of character.
- Allow there to be space (fence) between the child and animal for the first few interactions with livestock – See above
- The child needs to be taught that they are still animals and can, at times, have wild tenancies. Establish a set of rules that promote safety (ie: Keep your face out of the chicken’s face, don’t get on the ground around the goats, wash your hands after being around the animals, etc)
- Have the child feed the animal treats. Teach the child the proper way of feeding treats (with a flat hand) to avoid fingers being nibbled.
- Demonstrate the proper way to deal with/handle the animal.
- If your child is afraid allow them to see you interacting with the animal a few times a day. This will help the child to learn how to properly treat the animal, and gives them an idea of what to expect from the animal behavior wise.
- Understand it may take time and don’t force the child into situations where they are truly uncomfortable.