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PHOTO: Farm Sanctuary/Flickr
The idea of adopting a dog or a cat from a shelter isn’t foreign to most people, but talk about , and you can get some strange looks. However, organizations rescuing horses are easy to find, and farm-animal adoption centers are becoming more common, too. Some of these organizations take in livestock and poultry that have been neglected, such as in the case of animal hoarders or someone who is unable to afford to care for their animals anymore, while other groups remove animals from the meat-production chain, believing animals should not be used for food purposes.
The idea of adopting a dog or a cat from a shelter isn’t foreign to most people, but talk about adopting a farm animal, and you can get some strange looks. Some of these organizations take in livestock and poultry that have been neglected, such as in the case of animal hoarders or someone who is unable to afford to care for their animals anymore, while other groups remove animals from the meat-production chain, believing animals should not be used for food purposes.
Farm-animal adoption centers are usually nonprofit organizations that rely on financial support from the community, as well as farmers and animal lovers. The adoption option offers landowners the opportunity to help animals in need, gives animals new homes and allows the rescue organizations to continue to take on new boarders.
Who Should Adopt Farm Animals?
The profile of a typical farm-animal adopter differs from that of a typical farmer. Adoption centers rarely have performance horses or young, productive laying hens; they sometimes have rules against using their animals for any type of revenue generation; and they most certainly won’t adopt out animals to someone who has the intention of raising them for meat or breeding purposes. (They’re saving the animal’s life and not trying to create more animals to take care of, after all.) If you’re looking for a pet or a hobby animal, on the other hand, adoption could be the way to go. Farm-animal adoption might be an attractive idea if you have a lot of land and would like to offer animals a good lifetime home or if you’re looking for a companion for animals already in your care—even if the existing animals are farm-production livestock.
Who Should Not Adopt Farm Animals?
Farm-animal adoption is not the right choice for everyone, particularly if you don’t own a farm, aren’t sure that you want livestock, don’t know if you can afford livestock, are only interested in keeping livestock as a food source or an income source, or don’t want to follow someone else’s rules regarding animal care. Farm-animal adoption centers spend time and money vetting their potential adopters, and every animal that gets returned to their care is one that now costs them double to re-home, so having to return an animal is worse than having not adopted one at all.
If adoption is not for you but you’d still like to help with animal-rescue efforts, you can assist farm-animal-adoption centers in others ways, such as through volunteering, sponsorship and foster care. (More on those options below.)
What to Expect When You Adopt
Adopting a farm animal is different than purchasing a farm animal. You are entering into a legal contract with the rescue organization, so you actually have to follow the guidelines they set forth. In many cases, you don’t own the animal, rather the organization owns the animal and you provide care for it. You most often cannot turn around and sell the animal, rather the animal would have to be returned to the organization’s care if you no longer wanted it.
The adoption process varies from organization to organization, but most often, you start the process by filling out an application that includes questions about your farm-animal-care background and your intentions for your adopted animal, asks for references from people familiar with your animal experience, and requires photos of your farm facilities and proof of your financial standing. There’s usually a farm inspection and an interview with everyone who will be involved in the care of the adopted animal. You may be asked to make changes to your farm, such as fixing gates or improving fences, depending on the organization’s animal-husbandry requirements.
Adopting a farm animal is not a fast process. Expect it to take at least a few weeks and possibly a few months. When you’re approved to adopt, you might receive follow-up telephone calls and visits. Some groups will even contact your veterinarian to be sure you’re following through on regular care.
Costs And Fees
General fees for adopting certain animals vary by organization, of course. Some groups require an application fee—it costs staff time and resources to vet all of the applications they receive—and others don’t charge anything until you’ve been approved. As an example, the fees charged by the national Farm Animal Adoption Network as of this writing include:
- Chicken: $10
- Cow or steer: $100
- Duck, goose or turkey: $20
- Goat or sheep: $50
- Rabbit: $10
- Pig: $75
The application or adoption fee generally doesn’t even begin to cover the costs involved with caring for the animals at the adoption center.
Choosing An Organization
Organizations to consider adopting farm animals through are plentiful. You can sort through them by considering your reasons for adoption and how well your values align with the organizations’ values, including their mission and reasons for being involved in animal rescue. There are national farm-animal adoption centers, as well as those focused in certain regions. Do some Internet searching for farm-animal rescue groups, and check out this list.
Basic Animal Care Considerations
The point of adoption is to provide lifetime care for these farm animals. Unlike in farming settings, these animals are essentially pets and can live for many years. Animals that come from adoption centers may have suffered physical abuse, nutritional neglect, illness or injury before arrival, so they could require special care as their years progress. Be sure you learn about the animal’s background before you take it home—but even the adoption organization might not know its full history.
It’s also important to have general knowledge of how to care for the species of animal you plan to adopt. Here are some things you should keep in mind:
Basic poultry care changes as the birds get older. Especially in meat-breed chickens and turkeys, their legs get weaker as their muscles get larger. You may need to make accommodations to keep feed and water closer to roosting and laying areas if the birds do not get around well.
Basic cattle care is pretty standard as these animals age. They can live to more than 20 years old, according to the Farm Sanctuary animal-rescue agency. Learn more about keeping cattle as pets.
Sheep and Goats
Basic sheep and goat care will be required for their expected lifespan of 10 to 12 years—some can get older than this. Read about goat-care basics and management of sheep.
Rabbits becomes higher maintenance as they age, with the possibility of needing diet supplementation to keep a healthy weight and medication for arthritis management. Rabbits can live up to 14 years. Learn about more about rabbit-care essentials.
Pig care can also become trickier. If you adopt a pig that’s a fast-growing meat breed, it can develop joint issues as its muscles develop and the pig becomes heavier than its frame can support. Proper nutrition and veterinary care can help keep these pigs comfortable.
Animal adoption brings to mind physically bringing home rescued animals and keeping them on your property, and that’s what this article has primarily covered. If you fit the description of “Who Should Not Adopt Farm Animals?” above, you’re not completely out of luck. The work of farm-animal rescue groups is broad, and they need assistance in many ways.
Sponsorship of animals helps pay for the feed and veterinary care of animals living at adoption centers and in foster care. A one-time gift, monthly donation or annual contribution in honor of an animal under the adoption center’s care can make a difference.
Foster care requires the same safe, well-maintained facilities as you would need to adopt an animal, but you don’t necessarily have the long-term commitment of keeping the animal as you would through adoption. You might be called on to help rehabilitate an animal or simply feed and care for it until space opens up at the adoption center.
Volunteers are welcome at many adoption centers. People are needed to care for the animals, of course, but also to assist with events, manage social media, run errands, transport animals and check up on animals that have been placed at adopted farms.
Coming from a farm-pet perspective rather than a production-livestock perspective, farm-animal adoption can be a rewarding path. With even more care required than adopting a dog or a cat, entering into farm-animal adoption should be done with consideration to your own circumstances, the care you can adequately provide to the animal for the rest of its life, and your values in relation to the adoption center’s mission.