6 things you don’t know about working for a petting zoo

Honey Hill Farm Mobile Petting Zoo and Pony Rides

February 2, 2016

6 things you don’t know about working for a petting zoo

Honey Hill Farm News & Blog • By Megan Powell-Larkin, Staff Writer

It’s hiring season again at Honey Hill Farm! And just like it is for everyone else in the world, it’s hard to find good help. Don’t get me wrong. Our returning seasonal employees are aces. But they’re all one in a million- the perfect combination of peppy, competent and reliable that you need when you work with animals, children and equipment day in and day out.

So if you’ve had one of our exciting Help Wanted ads flash onto your social media feed and are now contemplating a career in the petting zoo industry, I want you to know what you’re getting into. It takes a special kind of person, ya know? Here are 6 things you don’t know about working for a petting zoo.

1. People will think it’s a hobby. You’ll be hard pressed to convince your friends and family that you have a legitimate job. If you don’t believe me, just go ahead and start telling people you got a new job taking goats and chickens to schools and senior centers. This gets worse as you get older and try to explain it to strangers at cocktail parties. You’ll learn to avoid asking new acquaintances what they do for a living, lest they politely return the question and you’re stuck explaining yourself for the next 20 minutes. Just remember that this kind of personal struggle is very character building, and your friends only call you “Goaty Milkerson” because they’re jealous of your awesome job.

2. There’s a lot more demand for petting zoos than you think. Honey Hill Farm provided pony rides and petting zoos to over 600 events last year in Kentucky and Ohio and we’re still growing at lightning speed. When you consider that we’re not the only company in the area that does this, you start wondering why you don’t see petting zoos every where you look. This means that there’s more work than there are people to do it, so if you like the name “Goaty Milkerson,” you may be able to make a career in the industry.

3. Some people really hate petting zoos. It doesn’t matter that most of our animals have better lives than you do, or that someone’s chances of becoming sick from interacting with a sheep is considerably lower than their chance of becoming sick from that cheese burger they just ate. These people believe that taking animals to a place where they get pet and fed is nothing short of animal abuse, or they believe that their child will fall victim to the plague if they get within 20 feet of a chicken.  Fortunately, these folks are few and far between and we will teach you how to deal with them as empathetically as possible, and then move on to people who recognize a healthy, happy animal when they see one. 

4. It’s A LOT of work. Most of our employees aren’t called upon to provide the 24/7/365 care that our 500 animals require to survive and thrive in a climate that varies by over 100 degrees throughout the year. But setting up an entire mobile zoo in an assortment of random environments isn’t exactly a walk in the park either (unless of course you’re setting it up in a park). I cope with the physical labor by reminding myself that I get to skip the gym later. 

5. It can be heartbreaking. Animals die. If you’ve ever lost a beloved family pet, you’ve already dealt with this harsh reality. Sometimes it’s of old age. Sometimes it’s from a horrible accident or premature illness. Some people take a long time before they can move on and open themselves up to the risk of reliving that heartache with a new pet.  Petting zoo employees don’t have that luxury. When you have hundreds of pets, it feels like you’re always saying goodbye. 

6. It’s really the best thing ever. Yes, your friends will make fun of you, but a lot of people will think it’s really cool. Yes, you will occasionally be accosted by an animal rights activist because they mistake a sun-basking goat for a dead one, but then you’ll just yell “Hey Rufus, you want some food?” and he’ll wake up and they’ll realize they’re ridiculous. And yes, it can be heartbreaking, but that’s only because you love those adorable critters so darn much. I’ve worked for a petting zoo for 18 years, and I can’t imagine doing anything more rewarding with my life.