Students prefer non-traditional pets

Baby goats haven't exactly made a name for themselves as household pets, but for a group of local students, the fluffy little kids are better than any of their friends' dogs or cats.

Twelve students from Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach have been raising dairy goats in Santa Ana Heights, an annexed area of Newport that allows residents to house farm animals as part of a 4H project.

4H is a national youth development organization that encourages students to complete a variety of projects, achieve goals with confidence and obtain skills that will help them become active citizens, said project leader and parent Gibran Stout.

The students will participate in a "goat show," where they will each show off one of the animals they've helped care for the past several months. The show, which is part of the Imaginology event at the Orange County Fairgrounds, will be held on April 13.

"The point of the project is to teach them responsibility, as well as the cost of raising one of these animals," Stout said.

The students take turns visiting the farm in the morning before school and in the evening to feed the goats, trim their hooves and complete other daily chores around the pen.

While agriculture was once a vibrant part of Orange County's economy, times have changed, and people have largely stopped keeping the animals at their homes.

However, in a Back Bay neighborhood, many residents continue to keep horses, chickens and goats.

"I love seeing city kids get out here, out of their element, and get a little messy," Stout said.

Riley Krause, a 15-year-old freshman at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, said her peers are often shocked when they learn about her pet goat, Clover.

"When you tell people about it they sometimes look at you like you're a freak," she said. "But my friends are super-cool with it. They want to play with them and come see them. It's two total opposite ends of the spectrum."

During their 4H meeting Monday afternoon, the group began preparing the energetic baby goats for the show. The students used hay strings as leashes to teach them to walk with their owners. The goats pranced and frolicked with one another, tussling around the pen, eagerly waiting for their next meal.

Goats, like people, have distinct characteristics and personality traits, said 10-year-old Griffyn Stout, a fifth-grader at Eastbluff Elementary in Newport Beach and daughter of Gibran.

"Some are funny and playful, but they're all really fun to take care of," she said.

Azealia, for example, is a high-maintenance black-and-white baby goat. She won't eat unless her formula is warmed to the perfect temperature.

"She's definitely the epitome of a picky eater," said Anastasia Halpin, a Huntington Beach parent whose daughter, Sarah, 13, joined the project after a family trip to the Orange County Fair's petting zoo.

"I saw all the animals and decided that I really wanted to do this," said Sarah, an eighth-grader at Mesa View Middle School. "My mom wouldn't let me get a cow, so we got a goat."

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