Poul­try Peo­ple

Dr Mi­hai Petcu is a farmer and chicken keeper… and the man be­hind An­i­mal Farm, the first ever chil­dren’s farm in Ro­ma­nia. He talks to Jeremy Hob­son

Your Chickens - - Contents -

With Jeremy Hob­son

What gave you the idea of cre­at­ing An­i­mal Farm? My spe­cialty is dairy farm­ing and, as you might imag­ine, a dairy farm is rare in this rel­a­tively res­i­den­tial area. Nev­er­the­less, I’ve built it up over 51 years and have seen many changes. In 2009, along with fam­ily mem­bers, I de­cided to cre­ate An­i­mal Farm in or­der to help ed­u­cate to­day’s young­sters.

In the UK, we have city farms and an or­gan­i­sa­tion called Farms for City Chil­dren. On their three farms, they host some 3,200 chil­dren and 400 teach­ers an­nu­ally. How suc­cess­ful has your chil­dren’s farm been since you opened? Very! Al­though it’s not res­i­den­tial, we of­ten get as many as 500-600 chil­dren and their par­ents vis­it­ing daily dur­ing the sum­mer months, and school trips. Every­one needs to re­alise where their food comes from. It’s also im­por­tant that peo­ple know how in­volved and time-con­sum­ing farm­ing can be as a way of life – can you com­pare farm­ing to any other pro­fes­sion?

I’ve looked round the farm, and you cer­tainly have an eclec­tic mix of live­stock, but I was most fas­ci­nated by your poul­try breeds. I might have missed some, so what breeds do you keep? We have tur­keys, guinea fowl, pheas­ants, ducks and geese. Our chicken breeds in­clude Silkies, Brah­mas, Pekins, Light Sus­sex (who would have thought a Bri­tish breed would have trav­elled so far?) and, be­ing in Ro­ma­nia, we of course have to keep one of our coun­try’s breeds, the Tran­syl­va­nian Naked Neck. Some think it ugly; we think it in­ter­est­ing. The rea­son for its bare neck is that it im­proves tol­er­ance to heat… and leads to greater pro­duc­tiv­ity un­der high am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures such as is of­ten found dur­ing our Ro­ma­nian sum­mers.

Do you care for the chick­ens in any spe­cial way? They have clean wa­ter, good food, plenty of space in the pens and plen­ti­ful air cir­cu­la­tion in their house, which are more open-fronted shel­ters than houses. They need shel­ter and shade in the hot sum­mers but, other than that, they get no spe­cial at­ten­tion.

Fi­nally, what do you think you’ve achieved since the farm has opened? In eight years, thou­sands of chil­dren have had fun and I’ve learned new things about the world. I’ve grown up like a child in this en­vi­ron­ment and we have de­vel­oped har­mo­niously and have learnt from our mis­takes. We’ve cre­ated a space that is one of the most fa­mous and pop­u­lar for fam­i­lies and chil­dren up to about eight years of age – their most for­ma­tive years.

ABOVE: Chil­dren can learn so much from chick­ens

INSET: Dr Mi­hai Petcu

BE­LOW: A Tran­syl­va­nian Naked Neck

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