Last weekend was the annual Montgomery County Farm Tour, which the sanctuary participates in. It’s an interesting event, because the people who show up are often there more because the sanctuary is one of several places they are visiting as part of the Farm Tour, as opposed to coming specifically to visit the sanctuary.
Visitors at the goat yard
This can make for some awkward questions or comments from the visitors, but it is also fantastic outreach potential. Most of the visitors are families, and kids are a great audience for planting seeds of compassion. Many have likely never considered veganism, or the animals.
Tilly in the foot bath
For many of these visitors, they have never had a chance to interact with pigs or cows or chickens or turkeys.
I spent the event in the chicken (and turkey, peacock, guinea, and golden pheasant) yard, as usual. Luckily this year it was less than 100 degrees, so everyone was more comfortable. Most of the chickens who are normally happy to be held, though, weren’t in the mood. And one of the ones we can always count on, Alina, was happy to be held, but was overheating quickly.
I mentioned this to Terry when I saw her while I was getting food on a break, and she suggested we bring Harrison down to the chicken yard. He lives in the “Playhouse” these days, having been ousted as Top Rooster in the main yard, and he was happily hanging out near the picnic tables up the hill from the chicken yard.
But Terry knew he’d be even happier being the poster child for chickens at the chicken yard. He loves being held – he loves it so much that he actually complains when you put him down!
Harrison being held by his biggest fan
It was a fantastic idea. Almost everyone who comes down to the chicken yard wants to hold a chicken, and having someone who loves it as much as Harrison takes all the stress out of it for those of us working the chicken area, and makes it a lot of fun for all of us. Harrison also, magically, was not getting overheated, even though he was held continuously for hours!
I stood outside the fence of the chicken yard, and people pretty much lined up to have their chance to hold him. I’d do the transfer between people so that I could make sure they were comfortable holding him, and that he was settled comfortably in their arms. Also because during transfers from person to person, he’d sometimes flap his wings – just a natural bird thing to do if he was feeling unsteady for whatever reason. He’d settle right back down, but it’s one thing for me to get flapped in the face with his wings and knowing what was going on, versus someone unused to birds…
The two young turkeys, Tilly and Cosette, came out with us too. We brought a footpath out so they could get in and cool down. It was pretty cute to see a small crowd of little kids very gently and very seriously splashing water on their chest and legs to help them cool down.
Cosette in the foot bath
One of the things I really enjoy about events is getting a chance to work with the weekday staff. (They have mostly staff during the week, and purely volunteers on the non-event weekend days.) On the regular weekend days, all the volunteers go with Terry from animal area to animal area in a group. On the weekdays, the staff each have their area(s), and so while I end up knowing more about the general population, the staff know more details about the individuals in their areas of responsibility.
There are a lot of chickens whose names I don’t know (and some of them are really hard to tell apart until you spend quite a bit of time working at it), so event days are a great chance for me to pick the brains of the staff. Carole and Ziona know not only the individual names, but they also know all the minute details about the current state of the ever-changing social structure in the chicken yard, and event days mean I spend hours in the chicken yard with them.
Carole answering a young visitor’s questions about peacocks
Carole was a teacher before she “retired” and began working at the sanctuary. It is easy to see her history as teacher during these events. She is really good at answering the many questions we get.
About 600 people came to this event, and while that doesn’t make it the biggest event, it is probably the event that has the highest percentage of people who have never considered veganism before. The exposure is everywhere – the animals themselves, the vegan hotdogs and vegan hamburgers sold for lunch, the sign at the sink by the goat yard giving information on vegan soaps…much of this exposure is the type that people can take in on their own, and it will be food for thought for them. But when they ask for the stories of the animals, they get another dose of it.
You just can’t tell the stories of these rescued animals without it being a lesson in “why vegan”.
Left to right: Amber, Emma, and Horatio. Amber and Emma were rescued from a cock-fighting breeding ring in Virginia.