There's seriously something about the poultry. Barnyard birds are like magnets at Maybury Farm in Northville, whether fluffing feathers, perched proudly on a chilled-out goat or simply strutting their stuff.
"Kids love chickens for some reason," says Jessica Striegle, manager of Northville Community Foundation, which runs the 90-acre nonprofit farm. "Most of them are excited. They wanna get up there and pet them."
Also vying for attention are sheep, bunnies, ponies, pigmy goats, Reggie the pig – and Bucky, a miniature donkey who brays the second he hears human voices. "They love people," Striegle says. "It's great for kids to be able to interact with farm animals." And October presents a prime time to reap the farm life benefits.
From horse- and tractor-pulled hayrides, corn mazes and pumpkin patches to pastoral scenery complete with crisp air and leaves, southeast Michigan's family-friendly farms welcome the season with enriching events – and a slower pace.
"It's nice to unplug," says Debbie Cavallaro, manager at the Farm Center at Kensington Metropark in Milford. "Kids get to come out and enjoy nature and animals. I think that's very grounding." Not to mention, the weather is perfect.
"It's not too hot. We don't have the bugs to deal with," she says. "We get the changing of the colors, which is a rite of passage if you live in Michigan." And, adds Paul Rutherford, who runs The Petting Farm at Domino's Farms Office Park in Ann Arbor, "It's the perfect temperature for animals to be out and around."
So why not savor some cider, delight in a rooster's crow and pick out a pumpkin? "It's smelling it, hearing it, getting the wheels turning," Cavallaro says. "Enjoy it. Winter's right around the corner!"
Click through the following pages to explore what's in store in a few locations in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
- Address: 2240 W. Buno Road, Milford
- Phones: 248-684-8632
- General: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, year-round; $7/daily vehicle pass applies ($30/year)
- Pumpkin patch 2014: noon-4 p.m. weekends, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, all October
- Fall Festival 2014: noon-4 p.m. Oct. 4-5 (Saturday-Sunday); includes farm demos, food, crafts, Rosco the Clown, hayrides, pumpkins and more; $5/adults, $4/kids
- Farm Halloween Party 2014: 10 a.m. Thursday Oct. 30; for ages 5-plus (wear costumes!), it includes treats, games, a "haunted" barn and parade where even animals get dressed up (pig in tutu, anyone?); $5/child
Come by our barn," manager Debbie Cavallaro welcomes. "It's heated!" And it has a nickname: "The maternity ward. We can have baby animals all year round."
Coo over teeny chicks, piglets, wee goats and more. Nestled by the Huron River – "you get the up-north feeling without the drive" – in October this farm hosts kids activities, horse-drawn hayrides and a big four-acre pumpkin patch (hint: Crops look great in 2014 due to all that rain, and you may spot deer eyeing those orange treats).
Explore the nature-made Kids Cottage and rock labyrinth, too, or bum books from the lending library. Best of all, animals are always here. "You get to develop a rapport with that critter," Cavallaro says, "and watch them raise their babies every year."
- Address: 481 Lake George Road, Oxford
- Phone: 248-628-1611
- Harvest Festival 2014: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays Oct. 4-26, $9/adults, $2/pony rides, free/24 months and under
- Harvest Moon Hayrides 2014: 7-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Oct. 3-25, $8/person
Specially designed as an educational place for kids back in 1960, this farm hosts a Fall Harvest Festival on October weekends teeming with hayrides, pumpkin picking (sold by size), farm demos, pony rides, storybook trail strolls – even cow milking! Kids can also mingle with ducks, geese, horses, llamas, pigs, kittens and bunnies.
Non-haunted evening hayrides are select dates, too, topped off with a cider, homemade doughnuts and a bonfire (bring s'more fixings, hot dogs and any food you'd like). "We have a hilly and rolling countryside," says office secretary Sally Marshall. "It's just beautiful in the fall. We're really out in the woods."
- Address: 825 S. Williams Lake Road, Waterford
- Phone: 248-674-544
- General: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily until Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays-Tuesdays only Oct. 17-April 14 (closed Wednesdays-Thursdays); free entry
- Harvest Happening 2014: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday Oct. 4 (rain date Oct. 5); this 28th annual fest has farm animals, crafts, a puppet show, pony rides ($4), hayrides ($3/adults, $2/kids, free/under 2), local bands and more; $8/activity wristbands
- Zombie Run 2014: 6 p.m. Saturday Oct. 18 (registration 4:30 p.m.); this 5K is topped with a bonfire and s'mores; $20-$100
Back in the day, Mrs. Myrtle Hess farmed this land, raising prize-winning dairy sheep and cattle. Nowadays, the land Hess left to the city is home to some cornfields, plenty of trails and north of 30 farm animals. That includes Nubian and Alpine goats named Chocolate Chip and Rocky Road, plus the new-for-2014 arrival of Bubba – a mini Black Angus steer. "He is so friendly. He loves to slime everybody," says Lori Soma, Waterford's parks and rec supervisor. The All Kids Playground is another highlight, accessible for kids with special needs.
- Address: 50165 Eight Mile Road, Northville Township
- Phone: 248-374-0200
- General: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays (closed Mondays and Halloween day) weather permitting; $2.50/person, free/2 and under
- Corn maze 2014: 6-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, noon-7 p.m. Sundays now-Nov. 2 (includes hayride; last one leaves one hour prior to close); $7/person, free/2 and under
During your self-guided tour, you'll indeed meet many chickens – and plenty more chummy creatures that live here all year. An October must is its corn maze. A hayride takes you there, passing soybean fields, hay bales and even its honeybee area on the way (don't worry, it's at a safe distance!).
In the maze, manager Jessica Striegle says, search for eight wooden animals on stakes; find all, and you're entered to win a prize. "You can spend the day; pack a lunch," she adds, and snap up some jams, jellies, maple syrup and honey at the general store; pumpkins, cider and doughnuts are for sale too.
- Address: 65775 Wolcott Road, Ray Township
- Phone: 586-752-5932
- General: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays-Sundays, all year; $7/daily vehicle pass applies ($30/year)
- Pumpkin patch cider and doughnut wagon rides 2014: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays Oct. 4-26 (except Oct. 18); $6/adults, $4/kids (vehicle entry applies)
- Trick or Treat at the Farm 2014: 6-9 p.m. Saturday Oct. 25; features treat stations, the "Boo Barn," a movie, candy scramble and craft; $5/child (vehicle entry applies)
This working dairy farm features six breeds of heritage cows to observe up close. "We milk the cows daily," says Susan Schmidt, Metroparks' agriculture coordinating supervisor, "and visitors can observe this each day at 10 a.m. in the dairy barn. They can also see our latest calves, Flower and Stormy."
Watch for sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, Percheron draft horses, a mini horse and a donkey too. Pet the critters and take advantage of wagon rides and a few fun October events. Visit the farm-themed play scape, too, complete with two small tractors for kids to ride.
- Address: 3001 Earhart Road, Ann Arbor
- Phones: 734-998-0182
- General: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily year-round
- Cost: $5/adults and kids, $4.50/seniors, free/2 and under
- Rides: $2/day hayrides (on the hour), $10/pony ride, Fridays-Sundays weather-permitting, year-round
- 2014 pumpkin picking: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 20-31; $3/pumpkin (general also applies)
Not far from the pizza headquarters (but its own separate nonprofit!), this spot – turning 30 this year – has a tasty focus. "You actually get to feed and pet animals," farm manager Paul Rutherford says. For $1, you score a hefty bag of stringy carrots he's put through a potato slicer.
"It's unlimited. Goats, sheep, even others, they'll burn through 'em." Bring a picnic for the kids, too! Visible from M-14, the farm's cheery red barn is also home to chickens, ducks, horses, pigs, cows, alpacas and llamas. Plus pumpkins and pony and hayrides are in store. "Kids get an idea at least of where some of their food comes from," Rutherford adds, "and how a farm works."