There’s seriously something about the poultry that makes life on the farm fun for kids. 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, executive director of the Northville Community Foundation, which runs the 85-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.” Visit in September, but know that October presents a prime time to reap the farm life benefits.
From horse- and tractor-pulled hayrides, corn mazes, apple orchards 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, the former supervisor 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 this time of year.
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!”
Take a peek below to explore some of the fall farm fun in store in a few locations in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
- Address: 4570 Huron River Parkway, Milford
- Phones: 248-684-8632
- General: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
- Cost: $10/daily vehicle pass applies ($35/year)
“Come by our barn,” former 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 (hours vary).
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 2018: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays in October, $10/person, $2/pony rides, free/24 months and under
- Harvest Moon Hayrides 2018: 7-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays in October, $9/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’mores 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: 248-674-5441
- Harvest Happening 2018: noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7; this annual fest has farm animals, crafts, live entertainment, pony rides, hayrides, historic house tours, free face painting and more (Free admission; some fees may apply)
- Funtober at Hess Farm: noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13: Animal tours, continuous hayrides, a campfire, pumpkins and more. $7/person
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 close to 100 farm animals. Animals include horses, ponies, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys and more. The All Kids Playground is another big attraction accessible for all children.
“Join us for a lovely day of experiencing farm animals, touring historic sites and having great fun,” says Tori Heglin, recreation supervisor.
- Address: 50165 Eight Mile Road, Northville Township
- Phone: 248-916-3033 (farm) 248-374-0200 (reservations)
- General: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, closed Monday; closed Sept. 8-9. Check for hour changes throughout the season.
- Cost: $3/person, free/2 and under
- Corn maze 2018: Open Sept. 14-Oct. 28 5-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, noon-7 p.m. Sundays ($9/person; includes farm admission)
During your self-guided tour, you’ll indeed meet many chickens – and plenty more chummy creatures that live here all year. A fall 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 nine-acre 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.
This year, also consider the Great Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 13-14 at Maybury Farm. “It’s a pumpkin-filled day of fun on the farm!” Striegle says.
- Address: 65775 Wolcott Road, Ray Township
- Phone: 586-752-5932
- General: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
- Cost: $10/daily vehicle pass applies ($35/year)
This working dairy farm features six breeds of heritage cows to observe up close. “We milk the cows daily,” says Susan Schmidt, the Metroparks’ former agriculture coordinating supervisor and current Park Operations Manager at Wolcott, “and visitors can observe this each day at 10 a.m. in the dairy barn.”
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.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (watch for hour changes in the spring/summer); additional hours available for special events of large groups.
- Cost: $6/adults and kids, $5.50/seniors, free/2 and under
- Rides: $2/hayrides (offered on the hour), $5/pony rides (call for times)
- Fall Festival 2018: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 (fees apply)
Not far from the pizza headquarters (but its own separate nonprofit!), this spot has lots to offer families.
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. The Petting Farm is a non-profit organization that has been open for over 30 years and is located in Ann Arbor with easy access to major expressways.
Visitors love hand-feeding the animals and a bag of feed is only $2. Pony rides and hayrides are fun treat, too, plus the pavilion is great place to enjoy a family picnic.
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.