Millions of dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters every year, but they’re not the only animals in need of homes. Farm animals like cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, and donkeys are also surrendered to rescues and sanctuaries. Perhaps they’re “backyard chickens” who were purchased in the wake of a growing fad, only to have the owners dispose of them once they stop producing eggs, or they grow tired of having a flock. In other cases, it’s animals that were taken in without the caregivers fully understanding the time and expenses involved in caring for them.
Countless others are saved from slaughter, auctions, and flea markets, or rescued from abusive situations, leaving many rescues and sanctuaries with more animals than places to go. Those who wish to help by adopting abused and abandoned farm animals are performing a kind act, but for the sake of the animals, it’s important to think about what you’re taking on before committing.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the cuteness factor, whether it’s a squirmy piglet or a cow that licks your face as a greeting. But it’s important to remember that animals are living beings, and they have specific needs that have to be addressed to ensure they have a happy and healthy life.
Before adopting, do research on the species to see how much space they need to live, what they should eat and how much, and what type of shelter they’ll need. You’ll also want to make sure you apply for proper permits before constructing any fencing or housing and check to see if any ordinances are restricting the type of animals you can have on your property.
If you’re adopting a younger animal, make sure you fully understand how much they’ll grow so you can plan accordingly. For example, when people adopt or buy piglets that are said to be mini pigs but end up growing to full size, it often leads to the pig needing to be rehomed. Also, since most farm animals can live into their late teens or twenties, you need to make sure you’re prepared for a long-term commitment.
Providing food and shelter is only part of the responsibility. Animals are sentient beings, making socialization and emotional well-being an important part of their care. It’s said that pigs are smarter than dogs and can even learn basic commands and that cows have a great memory and show affection. Just like any other companion animal, they often form close bonds with their caregivers.
Spending time with each animal to build trust, especially in cases where abused animals need to learn how to trust humans, needs to be incorporated into your daily routine. Providing an animal companion is also important; because of this, sanctuaries might require that animals are adopted in pairs if you don’t have others of the same species at home.
Sure, there are stories about adopted farm animals that are lucky enough to sleep in their caregiver’s home, but that’s not a realistic option for everyone. Most farm animals will spend all of their time outdoors, so you’ll need to make sure you can provide them with a shelter that allows them to escape the elements and be protected from predators.
Farm animals also need to roam, graze, sniff, run and perform other behaviors specific to their species to remain physically and mentally healthy. Keeping an animal in a space that’s too small can cause distress, so make sure you have enough outdoor space for the animals you’re adopting.
Veterinary care is just as important for farm animals as it is for household pets. You’ll need a veterinarian experienced in working with farm animals, and who’s available in the event of a medical emergency. Knowledge of basic animal care for caregivers is also important, especially since you might be tasked with administering certain vaccinations or medications yourself.
There are also health risks you need to take into consideration with certain animals. Chickens and other fowl, for example, can transmit zoonotic diseases like Salmonella. Taking proper precautions when handling and cleaning up after animals is imperative to help prevent the spread of disease.
Adoption of any pet, no matter the species, should never be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Take everything into consideration and make sure you’re fully prepared for the commitment. Once you’re ready to give a rescued farm animal a loving home, visit a nearby sanctuary to meet their animals and learn about their adoption process.
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