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  • Writer's pictureChristina Swaan

And on this farm we had a...

Over the past couple years the number of domesticated livestock type animals I keep has grown more than double that of the reptile & exotic species under our roof. This seems like it would be counter to my concerns for time and budget management, but the irony is that I'm actually spending LESS time and money maintaining a larger quantity of domestic animals than I was on a similar number of exotic species during the peak of operation in my former rescue.

Although reptiles themselves don't require much fuss, the systems needed to ensure their ideal habitat and health (from proper humidity to specialized light spectrums & temperature regulation) make them anything but "low-maintenance." Add to this the complex knowledge needed for proper handling, providing a varied diet, and specialized veterinary care that is hard to find, then reptiles (and other exotics) become less appropriate pets for those households with growing families and busy lives.


Living in a rural community makes access to resources for domesticated livestock easy to obtain, always available, and often relatively inexpensive. A bag of poultry feed for a small flock can be purchased at nearly any country supply store and costs less than lunch at a fast-food restaurant. Conversely the majority of supplies for exotic animals are specialized and expensive, must be purchased from select pet retailers (often at a premium) or ordered online with regular frequency and high shipping costs. The cost to maintain a single bearded dragon for a month can easily exceed that of an entire flock of chickens, and does not give the benefit of providing a sustainable food source, an easy way to discard food waste, or nutrients to a garden by providing natural fertilizer. Keeping exotics is not a endeavor for those concerned with tightening budgets or lowering their carbon-footprint.


Although smaller less-robust species I've kept have passed away or recently found new homes, it is still certain that Levi the Burmese python, Socrates the tortoise, and Chica the macaw will continue to be a part of our family for many decades more. At heart I am a dinosaur and nature nerd so my favorites will of course always be those scaly, mysterious, and primitive creatures that I have shared my home with since my teens. But, as my obligations towards maintaining a family, pursuing career aspirations, and concerns about long-term economic stability and food security in our ever-changing political climate grow I find myself willing to let go of much of the burden involved in trying to maintain a larger collection of exotic animals, and instead shifting much of my focus towards those species who's care is more easily managed and provide more tangible personal benefits towards my household and family.


While I cannot predict where I will be in the next 1, 2, or 5 years, it is becoming more obvious that my desire to run a "zoo" is being replaced instead by the need to start a "farm" to further pursue more sustainable animal care endeavors. It will be interesting to see what happens as the collection of species in my home evolves.

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