While many animals head south for the winter, the creatures of Beacon Hill Children’s Farm are generally on the other side of Greater Victoria. This year, instead of the usual shift to Metchosin accommodations, they’ll hunker down in their summer home.
The weather is generally colder in Metchosin, explained owner-operator Lynda Koenders, who previously moved the animals into alternative homes for decades.
The farm remains closed this winter as usual, but behind the barn doors, modifications to infrastructure and staffing allow, for example, the ducks to enjoy their spacious pond at the farm in Beacon Park instead of paddling in a paltry kiddie pool.
The barn with adjacent petting zoo area features a handful of stalls with heated floors, while the smaller goat barns at the back have heavy rubber cushions on concrete floors.
“This is our 37th year for the farm so it’s nice to have something that (people) can still come and see,” Koenders said. “We kept some of the goats here too through COVID even while we were closed and everyone loved it. It’s a feel-good moment when they come down and see the animals.”
The bird enclosures are also upgraded, with heat lamps and heaters and extra insulation to keep that heat in. So far all the budgies, pheasant, finches, doves and more, fully approve of the constant summer vibe and staff track the inside temperature daily.
At 11 years old, Maple the pig is weather sensitive and needs a blanket, big pile of hay, warm light and extra attention to keep him happy on the cooler, wetter winter days. He sleeps happily in a large dog bed that he loves, Koenders said.
Keeping the animals on site means this winter people walking by the park could spot animals and staff through the fence.
“We are always happy for a kind wave, smile or greeting and gladly answer any questions about the animals,” farm manager Claudia Laube said.
The goats will be out and about each day, and in general, the herd handles winter but prefers warm and sunny weather, Laube told Black Press Media.
On cold or wet days, they run to the daytime area as quickly as possible to get back indoors and only venture out if it’s dry and not windy. They also stay warm by “puffing” themselves up to make the best of their winter coats and stay cuddled closely to their friends and family to keep each other warm, she said.
The goat stampede, where the herd makes its way from the back barns to the daytime barn each day, is a popular activity in spring and summer. It’ll occur this winter, but the timing will vary.
“If it’s pouring with rain or snowy – or whatever – they’ll be hiding in their barn where they’ve got some heated floors. Other than that, yes, when the sun shines they’ll be outside and playing,” Koenders said.
The annual sponsorship program offerings also return this winter, ranging from $25 small animal sponsorship to $75 feed for a day and $150 doctor’s visit. Special Christmas-themed sponsorships come with a certificate showing farm residents wearing Santa hats.
Visit beaconhillchildrensfarm.ca to learn more about sponsorships.