Red Gate Zoo
Our Texas-based mobile petting farm has visited many schools, churches, company picnics, grand openings, nursing homes, and birthday parties!
My name is Debbie Praschan. I own and operate Red Gate Zoo in Van Alstyne, Texas.
We are not currently open to the public. Some of our animals, including Hummer the Camel, are available for hire for private events. Hummer graduated from a Camel Training Clinic held at Lightning Ranch in Pipe Creek, Texas, so he is now available to give rides. We also raise African Pygmy Hedgehogs and sell them as pets.
Friendly baby hedgehogs are available every month for $200 each. I am a USDA licensed breeder with 15+ years experience raising hedgehogs. Babies are handled regularly to ensure they are friendly and will make great pets.
Hedgehogs make good pets for adults and older children. They are easy to care for and inexpensive. A plastic bin with an open top or guinea pig cage with a solid floor (not wire) makes a good cage. Cover the bottom with pine shavings or other small animal bedding (never use cedar!). Clean once or twice a week. Feed dry cat food. You can also feed a few mealworms as a treat (available at Walmart in the wild bird seed area). Dry food may be kept in the dish at all times. Provide fresh water in a shallow, spill-proof dish or water bottle. Also provide something to hide under such as a pet igloo or small box. A solid-floored exercise wheel is a good idea (never use wire wheels since their feet can fall through and break their legs).
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and are sometimes upset when awakened. However, with patience they will adapt to a play session during the daytime. When frightened, hedgehogs will “puff up” into a ball and stiffen their quills. This can be quite painful to the fingers. Therefore, they are not recommended as pets for young children. Pick up your hedgehog by scooping both hands under its belly. It may puff up, but should relax quickly and allow itself to be held. Hedgehogs will lick your hands & sometimes “self-anoint” themselves. They produce a foamy saliva & spread it over their quills with their long tongues. It is a normal activity for a hedgehog.
I started in 1993 with a couple of riding horses. Then I fell in love with and bought a baby donkey. Then came chickens, ducks, and a rabbit. All of my animals were just pets until a friend asked if I could bring a few of my animals to a Vacation Bible School. I had such fun that I decided to go into the petting farm business and share my love of animals with other people.
Our Michigan petting farm visited schools, churches, company picnics, grand openings, nursing homes, and birthday parties. Some of the animals have acted in church plays. It took about 4-6 hours to get ready for a petting farm event.
By 2008, we had about 200 animals. We had Babydoll sheep, alpacas, pygmy goats, miniature horses, Dexter cattle, potbellied pigs, miniature donkeys, chickens, rabbits, hedgehogs, 1 dog, African Serval cats, peacocks, pheasants, and 1 very friendly camel. Feeding took about 2 hours each day. Then there’s stall and cage cleaning, bathing and brushing, shots and medications, barn and fence repair and improvements, training, and just plain play time with the animals. It really is a lot of work and a lot of fun. After that, I did paperwork, returned phone calls, and made trips to the feed store or pet shop for supplies. Several times a year I attended exotic animal auctions in Ohio and Indiana to buy and sell animals. I read books, attended seminars, researched the internet and conferred with my veterinarian to continue to educate myself about all the different species.
Springtime is my favorite time on the farm. That’s when lots of the baby animals are born. We have pygmy goat kids, lambs, bunnies, chicks, hedgehogs, donkey foals, and Serval cubs...
In the past, we have had the likes of llamas, rheas, Patagonian cavies, a porcupine, sugar gliders, chinchillas, pygmy mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, zebra finches, an iguana, macaws, wallabies, and a black bear cub.
We operated our mobile petting farm in the Detroit area from 2000 to 2010. My hope for the future of Red Gate Zoo was to open a permanent location where visitors could come to see our animals in their special homes.
2010: We moved to Texas on September 27, 2010. We sold all of the animals except Hummer the camel, to make the big move. We were looking for a location in the Dallas area for our permanent zoo.
2011: We moved to McKinney, TX. Added Dexter cattle, Babydoll sheep, a llama, chickens, ducks, peacocks, Red Golden pheasants, prairie dogs, 2 Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs, a couple barn cats, lots of hedgehogs, and sulcata tortoises. Hummer the camel went to camel school to learn how to give rides.
2016 - current: All the animals (including Barney the Tortoise) now reside on 37 beautiful acres in Van Alstyne, TX, just about an hour north of Dallas. Hummer, the donkeys, and sheep keep very busy each December doing special appearances in church nativities.