There’s a little secret hidden down a gravel road in Winnipeg’s Charleswood neighbourhood.
You may not be able to see it clearly from the road, but drive in a little further and the big red barn at The Little Red Barn Micro-Sanctuary becomes hard to miss. Upon entering the beautiful and bucolic property, a welcoming committee of turkeys, chickens, goats and cows will soon have you saying, 'I have a feeling we’re not in Winnipeg anymore.' This “magical place,” as deemed by past visitors says co-founder Jessica Walker, allows visitors to interact with a variety of animals in a uniquely compassionate setting, without ever leaving the city.
Founded in 2019, then opened to the public in 2020, The Little Red Barn is home to dozens (hundreds at times) of farm animals -- including horses, pigs, sheep and a cat named Sassy. Today the sanctuary offers a limited number of tours per week, catering to different types of groups, with a maximum of five people per tour.
“We have the Children’s Compassion Tour, which is more fun, geared toward the children, who are sometimes able to participate in barn chores, feeding the animals, brushing the animals, interacting with the animals one-on-one along with their parent or guardian,” Walker explains.
For more grownup groups there is the Zen Bovine Cow Cuddling tour, which focuses on spending quality time with Daisy, Phoenix and the other resident cows, and the Compassionate Tour, which focuses on animal interactions alongside discussion of animal welfare issues. “On the tours, we have here we provide education to the visitors on where these animals came from and what other animals just like them experience in the animal agriculture business.”
Each animal who calls The Little Red Barn home has a different story and individual personality. While some were brought in by farmers who had a change of heart, others were rescued from auctions or from being culled on the farm. Others, like adorable little Teddy the sheep, came from shuttered petting zoos.
“We are not a petting zoo,” Walker emphasizes. “This is the animals’ home we are entering. We have to make sure we respect them and what they want to do. If the animals are not comfortable being petted in that moment or having that interaction, then the visitor can go see someone else.”
It’s all about ensuring the safety, comfort and fun of all visitors and animals alike, she says, with a goal to have visitors form friendships with the animals, “rather than just seeing them as something to entertain them.”
Also different from a typical petting zoo or farm, the animals at The Little Red Barn will never be bred, nor sent away. This is their forever home and visitors can keep coming back to see their favourite new friends.
“No two tours are ever the same,” says Walker.
A tour in the morning will be different from one in the evening, and each season offers a distinct experience. The space also provides places to cool down or warm up when needed, during the one-hour tours, “which always seem to go longer,” Walker chuckles.
The price per tour at The Little Red Barn is $75.00, which goes toward the care of the animals. To book a tour or find out more information, visit TheLittleRedBarn.org.