Fur friendly: A traveling petting zoo offers kids and pets playtime

Photo: Amanda Maglione Photo: Amanda Maglione

Christine Eichler’s fondest childhood memories are of running around with all the sheep, horses and rabbits at her grandparents’ animal farm in New Jersey.

“It was like the SPCA of the county,” she said with a laugh, recalling how her grandparents happily took in farm animals that needed homes. “That was always my happy place, so I knew one day I would want that.”

Now the proud owner of more than a dozen of her own farm animals on a 30-acre piece of land northeast of the city, she’s embarking on a new business venture that is bringing her life full circle. At the end of April, Eichler loaded up several of her beloved four- (and two-) legged friends and transported them across town for a children’s birthday party, her first official gig running the Foxboro Farm Traveling Petting Zoo.

The idea was born last year after she attended an event where a woman had schlepped a trailer full of animals more than three hours to work an event in the area. She couldn’t help but wonder what effect that kind of travel time had on the animals, though, and that’s what got the wheels turning. At that point she already had a house full of dogs and cats, plus a pony and pigs outside, and the upkeep was getting pricey—she and her husband had always joked that they needed to put the animals to work so they could earn their keep.

“That’s really all I wanted to do; I’m just looking to cover animal expenses so I can have this because it’s something I enjoy,” Eichler said. “So I did some research, and there was nothing within an hour and a half radius. So I said, ‘We already have the pony, we already have the pig, we’re just missing a few little things. Let’s do it.’”

The traveling petting zoo, available for kids’ birthday parties and events like school fundraisers, will include animals like a miniature pony, two playful little mini Nubian goats that just want to prance around and show off their tricks all day, a couple of fluffball rabbits, and a pot-bellied pig named Mavis that rolls over like a dog when you scratch her belly. The animals will be held in little exercise pens, and kids will be free to roam among the enclosures and experience the pig’s oddly spikey coat and the fluffy, cloud-like feathers on Peggy the buff orpington, which Eichler said is known as one of the friendliest chicken breeds.

Along with a small crew occasionally including her 5-year-old daughter—who already loves “helping” by chasing the ducks and chickens all around the pens when it’s time to settle in at night—Eichler will be on hand to answer any questions the kids may have about the animals. But it will be an open setup with no established program or itinerary, she said, so guests can roam freely and spend time with each animal.

For more information, check out facebook.com/foxborofarmpettingzoo or e-mail Eichler at foxborofarmpettingzoo@gmail.com.

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