Spring has descended on south-central Wisconsin, and with it came the arrival of baby farm animals at Leatherberry Acres.
The popular agritourism destination located north of Baraboo recently opened an indoor petting zoo that offers up-close, intimate encounters with the chicks, foals, kids, calves and other newborn farm animals that adorn social media feeds.
“Most people don’t get out to see baby farm animals very often,” said owner Karalee Leatherberry. “You see a lot of baby animals online, especially goats — people love baby goats — and we have plenty, so we figured we might as well share them.”
Karalee and her husband, Tyler Leatherberry, opened Leatherberry Acres in 2015 as a corn maze and pumpkin patch. Its attractions include a 200-foot zip line, an air-powered pumpkin cannon, wagon rides and a host of educational activities to teach visitors about farming during the fall season.
Tyler said the spring petting zoo with baby farm animals, which received its first school visit Friday, is another opportunity for educational outreach.
“That was our intention going into this,” he said. “We wanted to get families out, and get them away from screens to see real farm animals.”
The Leatherberrys have also brought baby goats and sheep to interact with residents at local nursing homes. Karalee said the visits appeared to bring some elderly residents back to their early days on the farm.
“We were talking to a former farmer who was close to 100 years old,” she said. “He could remember his farming days, and I think he would have sat there all day with us if he could have.”
The indoor petting zoo currently features 2-month-old goats and sheep, chicks, ducklings, rabbits and a diverse assortment of other youngsters. There are also a few expecting mothers back on the farm that may show off their newborns at Leatherberry Acres in the coming weeks.
“We have a miniature donkey and horse that are due any day now, and our goats are also due to birth soon,” Karalee said. “There’s kind of a competition between them to see who will birth first.”
In addition to delivering and monitoring the newborns, the Leatherberrys spend several hours each day cleaning pens, interacting with the animals and chasing down the occasional mischievous goat or rabbit that hops over an enclosure. While the workload is demanding, they plan to continue the baby farm animal petting zoo moving forward each spring, and next year could even feature newborn alpacas.
“Since we’ve opened, the most rewarding part is seeing how much joy people get from being by the animals,” Karalee said. “There was a little girl in the bunny pen last weekend, and every time a bunny would sit by her she would laugh hysterically. It was so much fun for her.”