On a farm near Campbellsburg Joy Davis and her husband wanted to get back to the country.
More than ten years and a petting zoo later, Davis’ only regret may be she doesn’t have more land.
Joy Davis had grown up on the farm in Missouri just as her husband did in Kentucky. In 1999, the couple lived in Maryland and decided the time was right to move.
Davis started working at the Henry County Animal Clinic and found her first petting zoo acquisition in an unexpected situation.
“We would do large animal calls,” Davis said. “We were at a farm assisting a cow giving birth to twins. They were a boy and a girl and the female was a freemartin.”
Davis explained that when a cow typically gives birth to twins of different sexes, the female usually becomes sterile, a freemartin. The female calf receives hormones from the male in the interconnected areas of the placenta before birth. Since this was a Holstein and the cow would be for dairy, as a freemartin it was of little use to the farmer.
“I was there when we pulled the calves,” Davis said. “They were going to let her die and I asked if I could have her. It just snowballed from there.”
The Davis’ continued to rescue most of their animals. They have four horses, two miniature donkeys, a cow, an alpaca, six dogs, six cats, five turkeys and chickens.
“We have one thoroughbred that was rescued off of the track. He couldn’t race anymore,” Davis said. “We use him as a hunter and jumper now, as well as, our other thoroughbred.”
Davis’ daughter Kaycee has been a regular at the Harvest Showcase with her gypsy vanner horse for the horseshoeing demonstration. She also competed in equestrian games with hunter jumper events and cross-country racing where the course is set with more natural barriers with a fox hunting style of judging. Jumper events are based on how many faults or obstacles get knocked off during a run Davis said. But after injuring her knee, Kaycee hasn’t ridden in a year.
“She loves animals too and she thought about being a vet,” Davis said. “But she inherited the traveling itch from her father and is going to college. She has a love for animals though most kids from the city don’t get to experience.”
Davis rescued her other animals and hopes to give kids that haven’t grown up on a farm or who are from more urban settings a chance to experience the temperament animals possess.
“The petting zoo idea was something I wanted to always do,” Davis said. “As a kid you could only pet a goat at a petting zoo and not really any other animal. I remember crying when I couldn’t pet anything other than a goat. I always thought to myself when I have a petting zoo I will have one where children can touch other animals. They see shows today on television where animals are attacking people, like pit bulls, and they need to realize animals aren’t usually that way. They are very loveable and will be kind to you.”
Davis likes to see children pet animals they normally wouldn’t like her turkeys or a rescued alpaca that would’ve been euthanized for not producing the right grade of fleece. Once she had a turkey she sought more as companions.
“It is awesome to see these kids who won’t ask to pet the turkey and I convince one to pet it,” Davis said. “You see their excitement once they pet him and see how soft he is and all the different parts like the waddle. They will stay and pet the turkey because it is so different to them.”
The Davis family travels with their animals and frequent fall festivals, vacation bible school and have the petting zoo available for birthday parties. It takes two trailers to load their animals. Davis said the family had to limit themselves to how much their pasture could handle, but finds solace in the animals she has.
“It is like therapy when you have a crazy day at work and I come home to the animals,” Davis said. “They are so happy to see you. They are tolerant and very patient.”
The Davis family sells farm fresh eggs mostly by word of mouth just like their petting zoo. They plan to make a facebook page where people in the county can easily get contact information.
For more information about the petting zoo call: (502) 532-0981
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