Zoo Chateau entertains and educates through unique animal encounters
OUT & ABOUT
By Amber McIver-Traywick
Kangaroos are soft, tortoises like to have their shells rubbed, and there is such a thing as a zonkey (a zebra/donkey hybrid). How might I have become privy to such information you might ask. To which I will respond with two words, Zoo Chateau. One of the most interesting places you can stay in Colorado to experience your very own “vacation rental zoo” located a mere 50 minutes south of Berthoud in Golden, Colo.
Zoo Chateau is owned by the Crawford family from Golden. They purchased the property, which included a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house complete with barns and pasture, several years ago to house some of their aging quarter horse that were no longer able to compete in shows. Sisters Keaton and Kili Crawford have been equestrians since they were around six years old. Now in their 20s, the girls, along with their mom Rachel, play a major role in the endless upkeep of their eclectic menagerie, as well as marketing and hosting visitors.
Although it started as a place to keep their beloved horses, the purpose, along with the inhabitants of the property, has expanded over the years. The family is now on a mission to not only give guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience interacting with some unique animals, but they also hope to educate and bring about awareness of responsible pet ownership and the importance of rescuing. “We are more on the education side, we take in what we can — we like to educate the public on what they can do and what we have done,” Kili commented.
Today the farm is home to quarter horses, American draft horses, a mini-house full of rabbits, cats, including one with diabetes that requires insulin morning and night, three tropical tortoises, one of which is partially blind, a Poitou donkey, a zonkey, dogs, and even two rescued guinea pigs. The animals you would probably feel least likely to see on the front range, however, are two red kangaroos. A male named Rooney and a female called Bindi.
Many of the animals on the farm, like Chewey the Poitou donkey, who was inadvertently severely neglected after his owner passed away, were rescued by the Crawfords, “You could literally grab his backbone. He’s come a long way,” Kili explained. Other animals like the giant (baby) tortoises and the kangaroos, were purchased from reputable breeders. “The animals that aren’t rescues we like to call our ambassador animals,” Keaton said, as they are a major draw to the property and a conduit to tell their animals’ stories and spread the word on responsible pet ownership, rescuing, and what individuals can do to make a difference.
To help support their growing animal family the Crawfords decided to put the home on the property on vacation-rental sites Airbnb.com and VRBO.com last year. Zoo Chateau was in full swing offering guests the chance to stay in the beautiful home and also interact with the animals that live there in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Guests get private tours by one of the caretakers, interact with and learn all about the animals from the incredibly knowledgeable staff.
“We realized people from Colorado also want to see the animals because friends of friends would reach out wanting to meet them,” Keaton said, “We now also offer ticketed events for day visits as well as interactive stays at our property.” During day visits guests get to choose from several options, like the kangaroo interaction with granola feeding, and the “donkeys, horses, tortoises, Oh My!” experience where they learn about and meet
the zonkey, donkey, horses, tortoises, and hang out in the tiny house full of rabbits. The interactions also allow for some fun photo ops and memories that will last a lifetime.
One of the truly stand-out experiences offered at Zoo Chateau was an idea from Rachel — kangaroo yoga. Following on the heels of folks around the country doing yoga with goats and yoga with alpacas, you can now say you are one of the few lucky people who have done yoga with two very friendly red kangaroos. After a safety orientation, these are animals after all, participants who are 10 and up get a 30-minute yoga practice inside the roos enclosure and time to interact and get pictures with Bindi and Rooney. The story of Zoo Chateau continues to evolve and, although the family says there are no new animals taking up residence in the foreseen future, this big-hearted and purpose-driven family isn’t closed to what new adventures might be in store for them. When asked why they do what they do, Kili said, “If we didn’t absolutely love this job and love our animals we wouldn’t be doing it. It’s a lot of work but so worth it.”
For more information about renting Zoo Chateau or purchasing tickets for day visits and Yoga With Kangaroos, visit zoochateau.com.
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