New animal petting farm opens in Wheat Ridge community

Six-year old Keller Wilson says “hello” to a curious llama and his goat friends during a visit to the Family Traditions Animal Adventure in the Wheat Ridge community of Adams County. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

Owner says it’s the fulfillment of a life-long dream – 

By Patricia Beech – 

From a red kangaroo to a miniature cow, children and adults alike get to interact with and learn about a variety of exotic and native animals at the new Family Traditions Animal Adventure petting farm at 240 Poole Road in heart of Adams County’s Amish community.
Spacious pens and enclosures housing llamas, lemurs, foxes, primates, porcupines, and a herd of cloven-hooved animals are available for visitors to learn about from owner, Ryen Shiveley.
Shiveley says his petting zoo is the culmination of a life-long dream that was influenced by his late grandfather, Russell Shiveley.
“Papaw would always have some unique animal around, like a raccoon or a skunk, and I think that kind of influenced my interest in exotic animals,” he says. “But, I’ve loved animals since I was little, and I’ve always dreamed of doing this.”
The reactions of visiting children are perhaps the best measure of Shiveley’s success in creating a realized dream from the dreamy realizations of his childhood.
Six-year old twins, Keller and Gemma Wilson, were all giggles and boundless energy as they toured the farm.
At a fenced enclosure housing two porcupines, Shiveley gives them each a porcupine quill and explains that the animals are African-Crested porcupines.
“They’re about a year old,” he says. “Unlike American porcupines, they can’t climb, so they have especially sharp quills that protect them from lions and other predators.”

Twins Gemma and Keller Wilson greet an African tortoise on their trip to Family Traditions Animal Adventure. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to interest children in animals, but Shiveley believes the experience should be both fun and educational.
“As a teacher, that’s very important to me,” he says. “That’s why I’m planning on doing day camps up here during the summer months – to give kids the opportunity to learn about and interact with the animals.”
Shiveley offers educational and art classes in the farm’s large Discovery Center, which also houses several unique animals like a gecko, a baby hedgehog, and a variety of reptiles.
A schedule of events in the Discovery Center can be found on the farm’s Facebook page at Family Traditions Animal Adventure, LLC.
At present, there are around 80 animals housed at the facility. Shiveley says he hopes to add more.
“I’d love for it to grow,” he says. “We have plans this spring for additions like a parakeet encounter where you can go in and have them fly around you – as well as some other surprises.”
He says the farm is expecting a number of baby animals in the coming Spring.
“The lemurs, the crested porcupines, and the goats will probably all have babies. And, we’ll have a nursery where they’ll be bottle feeding stations at certain times throughout the day so visitors can bottle feed the baby goats.”
Some of the many unique and exotic animals visitors can view at the farm include: two ring-tailed lemurs; a very shy Patagonian Cavy that looks somewhat like a rabbit but is actually in the guinea pig family; a Kinkajou monkey that looks more like a raccoon than a primate; a three-year-old red kangaroo that stands six-feet tall on its back legs; two timid foxes; an eight-year-old African tortoise that Shiveley says has a century-long life expectancy; and a corral that’s home to a miniature donkey and a 30 year-old miniature horse.
Most of the farm’s exotic animals have been purchased within the U.S., but Shively recommends that people think twice before taking them on as pets.
“Exotic animals have so many special needs that the average family might not be able to provide consistently for them,” he says. “It’s not like owning a cat or dog, because most of these animals require special foods and veterinarian services that can be very expensive.”
Shiveley’s petting farm is USDA licensed and undergoes yearly inspections that include having a veterinarian come in and check each of the animals.
The father of three says the farm is a family venture.
“Our kids love it, they like to come out and help,” he says. “It’s really why I call it ‘Family Traditions’, because I want them to be able to carry it on, and I want kids who visit the farm to start their family tradition by coming back to visit some day with their own children.”