Does anyone here own a petting zoo?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by joyfulmama, Aug 19, 2004.

  1. joyfulmama

    joyfulmama Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2003
    beautiful midwestern USA
    In considering ways to earn money from our homestead we came across the idea of a petting zoo. Has anyone here done this or considered it and if so could you share with me pros and cons, things to consider, etc.

    We already have a wide variety of animals--all extremely tame (my children play with them all day in and day out so they are well used to people). Our property is secluded but our driveway entrance is on a major highway so we could place signs there that would be seen by lots of traffic. We are near a large seasonal tourist attraction and camping area so I think it's possible that a fairly inexpensive family outing type thing, like a petting zoo, would do well. Insurance and liability issues are my main hesitations at this point. What other concerns should I have?

    We are just at the very beginning of looking into this so I appreciate any and all thoughts. :)

  2. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    May 20, 2004
    SE Missouri
    I don't, but some neighbors were looking into having a 'dino dig' for children when they found dino bones. Turned out the insurance was going to be so high they would not have made a profit. They ended up selling the property and moving.

  3. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    The state of Vermont actively encourages "agritourism" which is what you're talking about here, and on request will provide a 3 ring binder with everything you need to know, including how to get the state to promote you for free. The binder is based on information from other state ag agencies, so I'd start by calling them.
  4. WildHorseLuvr

    WildHorseLuvr Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2004
    Also consider the well being of your animals. What can you do to protect them? I've worked quite a bit with animals and the public and some people can be unbelievably cruel. Even here at home we've had a few guests badly mistreat our animals...parents actually telling their kids to get sticks and hit or poke the animals...anything from ducks to kittens to horses. :(

    You're secluded now, but your property might become a target for theft once you start advertising and allowing strangers all over your place. If you're home 24/7 that might not be a problem, but it's something to think about.

    On the plus side, your location sounds great.
  5. Tinker

    Tinker Well-Known Member Supporter

    Apr 5, 2004
    NE Ohio
    Never did one on our property, but when dh was in the military, we use to takea bunch of animals to the squadron picnic each year. We would haul a calf, goats, baby chickens and ducks, rabbits, and occasionally a piglet, if we had one. The kids had a blast. It was suprising how many kids who hadn't ever petted an animal, and were afraid of them. We let them hold the rabbits and birds, and pet the goats and calfs. The piglets were just for show--too hard for the kids to catch. I always har bruised insteps and ankles, as I got to hold the calf, and it would walk all over me. Most of the kids did not realize not to walk up behind it, so I had to be on constant guard.

    Not sure I would ever want to do this on a regular basis, or on my own property. There would be a ton of liability, and you would have to worry about your animals being abused, or fed strange things. The cost of your insurance alone might eat up any potential profits, not to mention you would need advertising, warning signs, perhaps fancier pens. You would also have to pick up the trash the people leave behind. If you had to hire outside help, then you would need workers comp. Lots to think about, but if you think you could make a profit doing it, I bet it would be a lot of fun.
  6. RAC

    RAC Guest

    Not to mention soap and water nearby, and/or that alcohol-based hand cleanser. We visited the fair this year, and at the petting zoo as well as in all the animal areas they had the hand cleanser dispensers, along with large signs reminding people to wash their hands after petting the animals. I don't normally like using the alcohol-based stuff, but it sure was handy rather than running back to the overcrowded restrooms.
  7. Night Owl

    Night Owl Active Member

    Jul 20, 2004
    One of my friends has a petting zoo type thing here in California. I don't think she really has people coming to her house that much, though she does offer birthday parties. She does most of her business as a mobile petting zoo. She sets up inside our shopping mall once or twice a year, also does schools. She does pretty good setting up connections to sell livestock at these events. People want critters and find that she is a good place to get them. So there is some more income.
    I know another lady that has a really big operation in so. Oregon. She does places like the state fair.
    I've been to the petting zoo's lots of times and the area is pretty well contained and the owners can keep a close eye on the kids (and their parents). So, the animals seem to do ok.
    She usually does pygmy goats, mini horse, mini cow, llama, emu, tortoise, funny types of chickens, ducks, sheep, sometimes little piggies.
    The lady in Oregon has a permit for german (fallow?) deer, so she includes these. I wish I had some of those, they are beautiful.
    As far as regulations, I know my friend is registered with the USDA.
    If I were doing a petting zoo at my home, I'd set up pens in a separate area from my regular working farm. In a smaller controled space. And then only display certain animals.
    Best of Luck to you,
  8. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    East TN
    I've never owned one, but I've seen them come and I've seen them go. They ususally start for all of your reasons for starting one and then go for all of the reasons others have mentioned. Best overall for money making would be portable as others mentioned. I have seen the pony rides at the birthday party make money. Just be prepared for dealing with the people!