On a farm near Odessa, Saskatchewan, the peacocks are waiting for their babies to hatch, the miniature donkeys are nibbling on hay, the chickens are drinking water, the pot-bellied pig is grunting in his pen, the rabbit is nursing her bunnies, and Dolly, the miniature horse, is waiting at the hitching post as her seven-year-old owner finishes up chores.
Brooke will get to Dolly soon, but first there are dogs to be fed, llamas to be watered and guinea hens to be checked. Brooke and her 10-year-old brother Jordan are in charge. With about 100 specialty small animals, it means that these farm kids have little time to spare.
The rewards for the hard work are twofold: the money from selling an animal, and the fun when it comes time to host friends at their pet-filled farm.
“We haven’t butchered anything,” said Shawn Muhr, Brooke and Jordan’s dad. “We sell the animals and the kids get all of the money.”
The income from the sale of geese, rabbits, donkeys, horses, mules and hens has resulted in a quad for Jordan and several new wardrobes for Brooke. With bunnies sometimes selling for around $40 each and geese going for about $60, the profits for a youngster can be substantial.
“We find doing it this way shows the kids more respect for their money,” said Shawn. “When they buy something for themselves, they really take care of it because they know how much work it has taken to get it.”
Both Shawn and his wife Tara have always had a love of animals. Shawn remembers enjoying birds as a kid. This led to pet peacocks and pheasants as well as an incubator located in the family home. As a kid, Tara could often be found with the baby calves on her farm and it was always her dream to own a donkey.
“My dad wouldn’t let me get one for the farm, so I knew if I ever got my own farm, that’s one of the first things I’d have.”
Tara’s dream came true 12 years ago when she married her husband and they bought a farm together. It wasn’t long before she had her first miniature donkey, Angel. This 11-year-old grey miniature donkey is now one of a herd of 35 tiny horses, donkeys and mules, and each has a name and is a part of the family. The kids part with four or five a year when they know they are going to good homes.
Tara leaves all of the animal duties to the kids, but she does like to spend time with her donkey and horse herd.
“I just love coming out here and walking amongst them, feeding them treats, playing with them and just hanging out,” said Tara.
Shawn, a full-time farm chemical area manager, makes hay for the animals, but leaves all of the chores to his children. His real passion is taxidermy, so he spends every spare moment of his time in his on-farm shop.
He has mounted everything from caribou to grizzly bears, wolverines and elk. With nine freezers on site, Shawn has enough work to keep him busy for years.
“The best part is when people come to get their finished animals. They’re always happy because they can’t wait to see that trophy.”
With all these animals there is always something interesting to do for this busy farm family of four. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. †