You’re probably familiar with all the typical categories of pet devotees. Dog and cat lovers are so devoted to their favored species that it’s been a long-running debate about which is the better pet, and each side makes its feeling known far and wide. Even people with less common pets like lizards or ferrets are mostly understood for their fanatic ways, but that’s not as unusual as it gets. Today, there are many different types of animals that are trying to take first on the list of best pets.
Have you ever heard of a chicken daycare? Or having a “spa day” for a chinchilla? These are, in fact, something pet owners do for their beloved furry friends.
For Libby Brinkman, her 5-year-old chinchilla named Jose is her choice for a pet. “I saw a feature about chinchillas on Animal Planet. I wanted it because it looked funny, cute and fun. My cousin had one and she gave him to me.” It was not long before Jose provided entertainment for Brinkman.
“He likes to mess with people. He comes up to you and a second later runs away. He loves to jump on the wall and is really fast,” explained Brinkman. When he isn’t teasing his family, he enjoys being petted and loved.” His soft fur makes that easy for Brinkman.
These cuddly critters are incredibly sweet and quickly bond to their families. Chinchillas are also very sensitive and temperature dependent; they should never be kept in an environment over 75 degrees or they can get sick. Having incredibly thick fur, a traditional bath in water is not really an option. “We give him a dust bath 1-3 times a week because his fur is too thick to get wet. It’s important to get it dry or it will grow mold in its fur.”
Caring for Jose includes fresh water and meals that include Timothy hay, chinchilla food from the pet store and broccoli. His litter box needs to be cleaned weekly as well. “All in all, my chinchilla is easy to care for. He is sarcastic, funny and just a nice animal to be around.”
In recent years, hedgehogs have increased in popularity as pets. While these little animals can make terrific companions when housed and fed appropriately, they are not for everyone.
After much research and learning about the unique needs of a hedgehog, Emily Strickland welcomed Beatrice to her family. Known for bonding with one or two people only, Strickland made sure to socialize and hold Beatrice often.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, sleeping a good portion of the day and running in wheels at night. “Beatrice stays in my shirt pocket and sleeps all day.” Additionally, Strickland made a special pouch for Beatrice so she could go with her wherever she goes. “I take her to the store or movies or for a walk with her inside the pouch. She loves to be warm and sleep in her pouch.”
Hedgehogs have several unique characteristics, including their variety of grunts, squeals, and snorting sounds. They commonly vocalize when exploring their environments. “They make a hissing sound and crawl into a ball and spike up when they are in a new place or nervous,” Strickland said.
Nancy Beckerich had always been a dog person. She grew up with English Springer Spaniels. It wasn’t until her oldest daughter begged her for a rabbit that she decided to get one. After hours in the bunny pavilion at the Indiana State Fair, the Beckerichs’ came home with Peshey, a purebred Netherland Dwarf bunny.
Peshey is treated to bi-monthly spa days at the veterinarian to have his toes clipped. At Christmas, he enjoys a “Santa Bowl” which is a bigger helping of his favorite food. And of course, every bunny needs a special place to sleep. Peshey has his very own “condo” that he sleeps in at night. No condo would be complete without a special bell that he can ring when he wants to eat or have attention.
“He is LOADED with personality and behaves more like a dog, than a bunny. He is extremely social. I have socialized him and carried him all over the place with me, since he was three months old,” Beckerich explained.
For Camilla Collins, what started out as a learning experience when her kids were younger turned out to be cherished family pets. Approximately five years ago, Collins purchased a few chickens. Her goal was to teach her children how to take care of an animal. Five years later, Collins has nine chickens that she calls members of her family.
“Keeping chickens brings you closer to the earth and closer to yourself and your place in life. Learning about eggs, seeing them laid and eating them (yes, they are amazing) is such a miracle. It starts you thinking about how cool the world is and how everything works together. Last year we had a chicken go broody (this means they just want to sit on their eggs and wait for them to hatch) so we ordered 5 fertilized eggs (we don’t have a rooster, so none of our eggs are fertilized) and stuck them under her and lo and behold, they all hatched! It was so amazing! My kids looked up how long it would take for her to sit on them and all sorts of other information,” Collins said.
“Chickens are easy to keep, about 10-15 minutes a day to fill food and water, then gather eggs and say hello to everyone,” Collins said. But, there are a few niceties these chickens are afforded. Each morning Collins greets her chickens and escorts them to daycare. Yes, a daycare made especially for her chickens. “It is a movable structure that keeps them safe from hawks and any other critters that may come out during the day. It also keeps the chickens from driving my husband nutty by scratching our landscaping mulch all over,” Collins explained. Their “daycare” comes complete with a cleaning station. “They keep clean by dust-bathing, so I have a Little Tykes sandbox that I keep dirt in, as well as an old washtub.”
Spoiling her chickens does not stop at their coop. Collins occasionally takes one of them to the bank or a drive-thru restaurant. “People usually ask for confirmation if that is indeed a chicken in the car with me. Most people will say something about a chicken they knew or someone they know that has chickens and it makes them smile.”
Collins says each one has their own personality. “Moo (black and white barred rock chicken) has been my little sidekick lately. She follows me all around the yard and waits at the door when I go inside for me to come out. Frizzy is grey and white and she hops up next to me when I sit down and looks in my pocket or hands for a treat. She has fluffy cheeks and likes to stand in a little pool of water when it gets hot outside. Mrs. Clucks will sit on our laps and just chill out or fall asleep.”
Personalities aside, the chickens provide the same affection, love and joy as a traditional animal. “My kids are 15, 18 and 21 years old and we all enjoyed watching those chicks hatch and grow and sharing what we learned about them. If having chickens is what it takes to keep a family close, then I’m all in,” Collins said.