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An Introduction To Other Farmed Animal Species

An emu looking at the camera.
Emus! In a farmed animal sanctuary? It’s more likely than you think!

While the majority of the residents at a farmed animal sanctuary are likely to be chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, pigs, cows, horses, and donkeys, there is a high likelihood that, at some point, a sanctuary may receive an intake request for other, less commonly considered farmed animal species. It can be useful to have a general understanding of the types and needs of these species. Having a policy for these species in place before the rescue requests comes in can help you make sound decisions for the future of your sanctuary and the well-being of the residents.

Does your organization take in peacocks? What about rabbits, ostriches, and camels?

It is important to understand whether a sanctuary has the capacity to care for these species before agreeing to take one in. Planning ahead and developing a policy ahead of time can be beneficial and help an organization avoid missteps.

Making sure a sanctuary understands the needs of each species before taking in an individual is imperative. Great questions to ask are:

  • Do you or anyone on staff have experience or knowledge working with the species?
  • Have you researched the species-specific needs of the animal and determined you can provide quality care for this resident throughout their life?
  • Does the sanctuary have proper housing and living space for the animal?
  • Is there a veterinarian in the area that works with this species?
  • Are there special licenses you need to have in order to lawfully care for this animal?
  • What potential health issues is this species susceptible to and are there vaccinations you need to know about?
  • Are there potential diseases that are communicable to other resident species?

A Note On Farmed Fishes

While fishes are farmed in huge numbers, there aren’t any farmed animal sanctuaries taking in fishes, as far as we know. It would require a radically different set up and care protocols. 

Farmed Birds

Aside from chickens, turkeys, and waterfowl, there are many other birds that are farmed for various exploitative reasons. These range from smaller birds, such as pigeons, partridges, quail, and pheasants, peafowl, and ratites (emus and ostriches). As you can imagine, these birds have different housing, nutritional, and social needs, as well as distinct behavioral repertoires. If you decide to provide sanctuary for any of these species, you will certainly want more in-depth information on how to provide ideal care for them, but this resource can provide some basic information to consider about each species.

Guinea Fowl

Guinea fowl are a bit different than chickens, as they are technically much more wild.  The domestic guinea fowl derives their name from the guinea coast of West Africa where they originated. 

You will want to consider their more wild status when taking in guinea fowl. In addition, you should be aware that:

  • Guinea fowl can be quite loud. Keep this in mind if your have neighbors nearby. They will often sound an alarm when vehicles drive by or if they hear dogs bark, though they will often sound an alarm when actual predators are sensed nearby as well.
  • Guinea fowl can be quite confrontational and shouldn’t be housed with chickens unless they have been raised together as young, or if there is a special relationship between individuals. The guinea fowl pecking order can be quite a bit more challenging than a chicken’s.
  • Guinea fowl prefer to roost higher than chickens do, so consider that when placing roosts in their living environments.
  • Guinea fowl are voracious foragers, gobbling up ticks and other insects, and even snakes and mice if they come across them!
  • Guinea fowl like to roam, and ideally will have adequate living space to encourage foraging and exploring while being safe from predators.
  • Guinea fowl can be fed “layer” pellets or crumbles, but they should be allowed to forage for most of their food. Bird food can be used to entice them back in the coop at night. Give your guinea fowl a coop similar to your chicken coop. Provide them a safe, draft free coop with roosts and nesting boxes (though they will likely nest on the ground instead).
  • Guinea fowl can become very attached to their mates and tend to stick close to their flock. They are monogamous or semi-monogamous, and can become stressed if separated from their companions.
  • Males and females are very similar in appearance. However, the wattle and helmet of female guineas is smaller than in males. Females also make a vocalization that sounds like “Buck-Wheat” whereas, males make a one-syllable sound.
  • Guinea hens often lay in communal nests.

Partridges

Partridges originating from Europe, Asia, and specifically Hungary, were brought to the United States in the early 20th century. Partridges are farmed primarily to be released onto hunting preserves. Sadly, there is also a growing demand for partridges from the restaurant market and individuals, and some humans breed partridges to restock wild populations as well.

If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about partridges:

  • There are unfortunately few medications that have been approved for use in partridges.
  • It can be difficult to differentiate between female and male adult birds. However, males are usually larger than females, and may have a more predominant metatarsal spur, and have a gray superciliary line that appears lighter and extends to the crown.
  • There isn’t a lot of information available on the specific nutritional needs of partridges, but many base the content of their diets from wild of non-large breed turkey diets.
  • The gray partridge in particular has been described as monogamous, prone to disease, nervous and difficult to handle, and they can be potentially quarrelsome in large groups.

Peafowl

Peafowl are actually a type of pheasant. The peafowl’s natural habitat is woodland and forest, though in the wild they adapt well to different environments. The peafowl natural diet consists of worms, insects, small snakes and mammals, berries, grain and seed.

  • Certain species of peafowl are not well-adapted to cold weather.
  • Adult birds can be fed game bird maintenance crumbles/pellets. 
  • Peacocks can vocalize quite loudly. Consider this if you have neighbors nearby.
  • Consider the male’s train and his need to keep it off the ground while roosting. This requires a high enough perch.
  • Peafowl will often wander off if given the chance. To protect them, ensure that they have plenty of living space to roam but are unable to leave that space.
  • One of the best ways to roof a pen is with Nylon #7 netting. It is strong enough to hold the residents in, but giving enough to prevent injury in case they fly into it.
  • Ideally a single male can be housed with several hens.

Pheasants

There are many different types of pheasants, with the ring-necked pheasant being the most common. The golden pheasant is easier to care for and less flighty. If you are considering rescuing a pheasant or are developing a rescue policy for them, consider the following:

  • Few medications have been approved for use in pheasants.
  • Pheasants require more room than chickens.
  • Some pheasants (like peafowl) can not tolerate cold weather.
  • Golden Pheasants mainly feed on the ground on grain, invertebrates, berries, grubs and seeds as well as other kinds of vegetation.
  • Overall, most pheasants prefer to have a shaded enclosure with some hiding places, and enough room to allow for proper flight.
  • Due to the proclivity for flight in pheasants when scared, it is important to have the roof properly covered and made out of material that they won’t seriously injure themselves if they fly into it. 

Pigeons

Pigeons are sadly exploited for their plumage, for sport, and for their flesh and eggs. There are over 500 species of wild pigeons and doves, and 175 species of domestic pigeons. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about pigeons:

  • There are different varieties of pigeons that have been bred and farmed for various purposes. While much of the care is similar, the type of care you provide may need adjusted depending on the species of pigeon.
  • Some pigeons have been raised for sport, racing, tumbling, or diving, while others are exploited for meat and eggs, or as show pigeons.
  • Pigeons are prone to developing diseases if kept in damp environments.
  • While pigeons can survive on only a couple grains, they do best with a variety. Possible grains include corn, wheat, sorghum, oats, barley, rye, or rice. Buckwheat, legume seeds, peas, soybeans, vetch, and peanuts can also be used.
  • Pigeons require special grit, containing a different mix of minerals than chicken grit.
  • There are some species of pigeons that are bred to “tumble” on the ground as they cannot fly. Knowing what species of pigeon you are considering rescuing is imperative so you can provide proper care.
  • If you decide to care for a large flock, using masks and respirators should be considered to prevent the spread of zoonosis or the possibility of developing respiratory issues.

Quail

In addition to growing popularity of quail farming in the US, it is also quite popular in Japan, China, India, Canada, Zimbabwe, Spain, Italy, and France. Sadly, there are 18 different species of quail that are exploited for flesh and egg production. As such, they are often split into two categories: “layer” and “broiler”. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about quail care:

  • Identifying what type of quail you are caring for is imperative. “Layer” quail breeds largely consist of Tuxedo, Pharaoh, British Range, English White, and Manchurian Golden while those used for their flesh are generally Bobwhite (American) and White Breasted (Indian).
  • Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat stress.
  • The U.S. quail industry is relatively small. As a result, there are very few medications have been approved for use in quail production.
  • In particular, Bobwhite Quail are susceptible to Quail Bronchitis whereas Japanese Quail are resistant.

Ratites

While the term “ratite” describes any bird whose sternum is smooth, or raft-like, because it lacks a keel to which flight muscles could be anchored and are thus, unable to fly,  emus and ostriches are the ones that you see most in farming operations. As you may imagine, the needs of an emu or ostrich are quite different than that of a chicken or duck. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about ratites:

Ostrich

  • Ostriches are the largest of the bird species, able to grow as tall as 8 feet and weigh up to 350 pounds.
  •  Ostriches do not need to eat grit to digest their pelleted food; and too much sand can cause an impaction.
  • Walking on large rocks can cause leg problems for ostriches.  
  • The overfeeding or underfeeding of protein, calcium, phosphorus or other minerals can also cause ostrich leg problems. 
  • Ostriches sometimes peck at wet soil and may become impacted with sand and dirt.  
  • Electric heaters are a hazard, as they will peck at lots of objects, including electric cords and light bulbs.
  • Ostriches are prone to get their heads caught between a building and fence, and will eat loose screws and other bits of hardware.
  • Feeding large pieces of fruits and vegetables can catch in an ostrich’s mouth or neck.  
  • Adult ratites need at least 6 foot fences that they cannot stick their heads through.
  • In the United States, ostriches require health certificates, lab testing, and veterinary examinations for transportation between states.

Emus 

  • Emus are often raised for their flesh, skin for leather, feathers, and for emu oil. Some are bred to be sold to petting zoos or as an exotic pet.
  • It can be difficult and even dangerous to transport an adult emu to a veterinarian’s office. You must have a vet that can travel to you.
  • Emus can kick forward and backwards, and are able to swing their legs laterally as well.
  • Emus possess a diverticulum in the trachea, leading to a tracheal sac. This poses special problems when an emu needs to be intubated and inhalation anesthesia needs to be administered. 
  • Adult emus reach up to six feet in height and require tall fencing just like ostriches to prevent them from leaving the safety of their living environment.
  • Like ostriches, emus also do not have a crop
  • In areas where equine encephalitis is prevalent, a bivalent vaccine for EEE and WEE, eastern and western equine encephalitis, using a killed vaccine, should be administered every six months. Vaccines for horses used should not contain tetanus toxoid or any other additives available for horses.
  • Adult Emus should be housed in pairs.

Farmed Mammals

Now that we have covered less commonly farmed birds for which you may receive rescue requests, we will delve into other farmed mammals. Aside from cows, equines, and goats and sheep, there are many other mammals that are farmed for various exploitative gain. These range from smaller mammals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to larger mammals like camels and bison. As you can imagine, these mammals have different housing, nutritional, and social needs and distinct behavioral repertoires. If you decide to provide sanctuary for any of these species, you will certainly want more in depth information on how to provide ideal care, but this resources will at least give you some basic information to consider about each species.

Camels

Domesticated camels are members of the camelid family, which includes the domesticated alpacas and llamas. The new world camels also include two other wild camelids, the vicuna and the guanaco. Old world camels include the bactrian and the dromedary. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about camels:

  • Camels can walk easier on soft soils and sand because their feet have pads and not hooves. Their toenails do need trimming periodically, as needed.  
  • Dromedary camels are usually more confrontational than  Bactrian camels. 
  • Some medicines used orally in horses are ineffective in camelids. Hay should be the major portion of their diet. 
  • Camel’s teeth need to be periodically checked and floated. 
  • Interstate travel requires camelids to be tested for Brucellosis, tuberculosis, and a health certificate/inspection by a veterinarian. 
  • Camels have prehensile, split lips are very adept to examining items and opening gates. We recommend a double latch type gate system if caring for them.  

Rabbits

While many people think of rabbits as fascinating wildlife or members of the family, they are also exploited for their flesh for food, for use in laboratories, as breeding stock, for fiber, and for agricultural youth programs. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about rabbits:

  • Rabbits do not tolerate heat well and can die from being overheated.
  • Rabbits generally sleep a lot during the day and during the night, and are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • House rabbits who spend all of their time on carpeting and linoleum will need to have their nails trimmed.
  • Rabbits teeth grow continuously and must be checked to ensure that they are wearing down properly. Those with crooked teeth will need to have their teeth kept trimmed by a veterinarian.
  • Rabbits are generally social beings and do best with a fellow companion. However, they are territorial and can seriously harm each other if introduced improperly, so special care must be given during the introduction.
  • Rabbits can become stressed if faced with a predator and may injure themselves or go into shock. It is very important they have safe indoor living spaces at night and protected outdoor spaces for when staff is around.
  • If your resident rabbits have a lot of access to the outdoors, you will need to be diligent about monitoring for flystrike and cuterebra during fly season.

Bison

Bison, commonly called buffalo in the US, are sadly exploited commercially for a number of reasons, including for their flesh, as breeding stock, for hunts, for zoos, and for their heads, skin and bones. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about bison:

  • Bison still have many of their wild tendencies and are only considered semi-domesticated.
  • Ideal land for bison would include boulders, rocks, rugged areas, woods, and thickets.
  • Any bison transported across state lines must have all their health records, including negative bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis tests, prior to transport.
  • Bison are large, heavy animals, and require serious fencing considerations in order to keep them and staff safe.
  • Bison are social and should ideally be kept with other bison.
  • Tall, strong exterior fencing is an absolute requirement before bringing a bison home.

Deer

Deer farming has been around for many years. Deer, including elk and reindeer, are not only raised for their meat, but also for their antlers. The Fallow deer is the most commonly raised species. Elk and deer antlers are sold as an aphrodisiac in many countries in Asia. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about deer:

  • You may require special licensing to care for a deer in captivity. It may also be illegal in your area.
  • You will require special facilities such as 8′ tall fences to keep the deer confined.
  • Cervids, such as deer and elk, do not need grain.  
  • When you confine animals with antlers (or horns), you will typically have more problems with the overall health of the herd.
  • Tuberculosis and brucellosis testing is required in some areas every 1-3 years.
  • When caring for deer, overhead structures (which catch the antlers) and other items need to be considered.
  • While farmed, deer are still technically wild animals and great care should be taken.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pig farming has been around thousands of years in South America. Along with being used for food and as pets, guinea pigs are also used in laboratories. Consider the following if you are interested in providing sanctuary for guinea pigs:

  • Do not use wire bottom cages or aquariums to house guinea pigs as it can cause serious health issues and injuries.
  • Cedar bedding can cause upper respiratory infection. Don’t use any wood bedding chips that may have an odor of wood.
  •  A guinea pig’s diet is extremely important. They don’t manufacture their own Vitamin C, so they rely on their human caregivers to see that they get it. 
  • Guinea pig grooming involves regular toenail trimming, ear cleaning, combing, and bathing.

Yaks

Yaks are farmed for their flesh, milk, and fiber. If you receive a request for rescue or are developing a policy on what species you are prepared to take in, then there are a few things you should know about yaks:

  • Yaks can contract any disease that cows can contract. 
  • The tuberculosis, Brucellosis and other tests required is the same for yaks traveling interstate.
  • Fencing requirements are the same for other domestic cows.

Farmed Fur Animals

Sadly, many animals are also farmed for their fur. Foxes, minks, chinchillas, raccoon dogs, and rabbits are all victims of the fur industry. We recognize that this is an entirely different area of animal exploitation and likely does not fit within a typical farmed animal sanctuary design. However, they deserve our attention and to be acknowledged.

While this is not an exhaustive list of farmed animals across the globe, hopefully it provides you with some helpful information when considering whether you sanctuary can responsibly take in and care for these animals. If you have another species you think should be on the list, let us know!

SOURCES:

Guinea Pig Care | Animal Humane Society 

Encyclopedia Britannica | Ratites 

Frequently Asked Questions | House Rabbit Society 

Raising Emus  | Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic  (Non-Compassionate Source)

Medical Care For Emus | Exotic Vet Pet

Raising Camels | Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic (Non-Compassionate Source)

Raising Yaks | Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic (Non-Compassionate Source)

Raising Elk | Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic (Non-Compassionate Source)

Understanding the Behavior of Domestic Emus: A Means to Improve Their Management and Welfare—Major Behaviors and Activity Time Budgets of Adult Emus | Journal Of Animals (Non-Compassionate Source)

Quail Farming | Roys Farm (Non-Compassionate Source)

The Complete Guide To Raising Guinea Fowl | The Free Range Life (Non-Compassionate Source)

Feeding Game Birds: Pheasant, Quail, and Partridge | Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Non-Compassionate Source)

Pheasant Production | eXtension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Raising Pigeons | eXtension  (Non-Compassionate Source)

Short Communication Open Access Effect of Pigeon Keeping on Health and Family Life | Journal of Community & Public Health Nursing 

Raising Bobwhite Quail | eXtension  (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 11, 2021

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