The Bucks Goat Centre
Goats and Chickens Living Together in Harmony
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The Bucks Goat Centre in Buckinghamshire, England, is a small farm, open to the public, with a focus on education and conservation. It’s run by Ruth Gaisford and Anthony Hearn, who have a real passion for the animals in their care.
This is no ordinary farm. The animals are not bred for milk or meat. They live a life of fuss and adoration, admired by the visiting public, appearing on television, and arriving at events to bring a quirky element to even the most formal of proceedings.
“We took goats to a wedding,” said Ruth, “Lilly and Poppy are Pygmy goats who come out to events. When a couple got engaged on a goat farm in France, they wanted goats at their wedding. So, we went along, with the goats on leads, and between ceremonies, people were walking around with the goats and having photos taken with goats standing beside the wedding party.
“We only started taking the animals out to events last year, so it’s quite a new thing for us. During formal proceedings, we keep the goats in a pen away from any plants, flowers or cake! At weddings, sometimes people put a camera on the back of the goat to get a goats eye view of the wedding.”
The Bucks Goat Centre has many more animals than its name suggests. There are llamas, alpacas, a small horse, pigs, chickens, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, and geese.
The chickens are a mix of free-range and a group who live in a large, spacious enclosure. We met Nugget on arrival. Nugget is the friendliest chicken of them all and just loves people. As a chick, Nugget was rejected by her mother on a cold day, so she was hand-reared at the farm. “We thought she was a hen until she started crowing a few weeks ago!” said Anthony. “We made her a little perch and she sits there surveying her environment. Nugget is so friendly that she has become a local celebrity. The visitors love her.” They obviously haven’t switched to calling her “him,” yet.
“She now sits on the goats’ backs and they share living space,” continued Anthony. “Even when the goats were giving birth, we had a chicken eating the afterbirth — sharing is caring!” Yum.
The breeds of chicken at the centre are Frizzles, Rhode Island Reds, and Silkie Bantams. “We also have a Jersey giant cockerel,” said Anthony.
“The eggs are a perk for the staff,” said Ruth. “We get dark eggs, goose eggs, all sorts.”
Taking the animals into the community
“We visit old people’s homes and the MS centre with rabbits and ferrets,” says Ruth, “because they’re friendly and the experience of handling them is therapeutic for the people there. We visit school fetes too, often with goats. We don’t take the hens away from the farm, but Nugget, our Silkie hen, would probably be up for it because she loves a lot of fuss and enjoys being around people.
“We get 30,000 people visiting the farm every year and have Fun Days with ferret racing and other activities, but our current ferrets aren’t very keen on the whole racing scene!”
The goats have appeared on television and in films. “One of our goats appeared on The Great American Baking Show, alongside Baby Spice and an American footballer called Spice. The goat was dressed up with reindeer antlers, in a scene where the footballer had bought the wrong animal at Christmas. We took the goat to Pinewood Studios in England for the filming. The crew expected us to arrive with an animal trailer, so they were surprised to see the goats sitting comfortably, strapped into the back of our Jeep. We call it The Goatmobile.”
Goats from the farm have also appeared in a television show on BBC2 called MotherFatherSon starring Richard Gere, and they’ll be appearing in a Hollywood movie coming out this year, starring A-list celebrities. “It’s all top secret and we had to sign a confidentiality agreement,” said Ruth, “so we can’t reveal the title of the movie.
“People visit us from all over the world,” she continued. “One lady had just arrived in the UK from America and the Bucks Goat Centre was the first place she stopped. A South African lady who’s studying at Oxford University came along after her boyfriend bought her a half-day goat experience. A man who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer wanted to spend time with alpacas in a quiet area of the farm, so we arranged that for him.”
A walk around the farm
Ruth and Anthony took me on a tour of the farm to see the different animals and breeds. They have a Boer goat, goats with floppy ears called Anglo-Nubians, Angora goats, and three Pygmys. There’s also a white nanny Cashmere, who was rescued from a pub garden where she was tethered. She’s sitting on a raised platform enjoying the sunshine.
“A group from Bucks New University came to help build a goat ramp made out of discarded pallets,” explains Ruth. Then we pass a molting goat. “Jackdaws come down and take the molting fur off the goats for their nests,” Ruth says.
We saw Arnold, a Pygmy goat who likes bashing things. He’s bashing the fence with his horns as we approach. “We gave him a punching bag, which he uses a lot,” explains Ruth. Fortunately, he seems to prefer inanimate objects, and is not butting his companion in the goat pen!
We went inside to see the new baby goats, who are running around, full of life. Anthony picked one up and it’s clear they’re already well socialized and used to being handled. “We handle them from birth, so they get used to it, and they enjoy all the attention,” he explained.
Anthony then showed us the education room. We saw Donald Trump the guinea pig, with his shaggy blond locks, and said hello to a pedigreed Boer goat. A hen roamed free in the barn, interacting with the Angora goats, and a collection of pigs and rabbits.
We met Maxine the llama, who had to have her ear removed because it was cancerous. “It’s healing, so we’re keeping her inside. We need to ensure the wound isn’t scorched by the sun, so we plan to make her a little bonnet, then she can go outside again,” Anthony explained.
The animals are there for people’s enjoyment, but they seem to enjoy the interaction too, so it’s a win-win situation for animals and humans alike!
Originally published in the February/March 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.