Ruby Bennett-Smith enjoys the grain breakfast provided by owner Micaela. Ruby also loves apples and once lapped up a soda given to her by Micaela’s brother Morgan, ‘13. (Photo by Elena Bennett)

The birds and the bees: Exotic pets pose exotic challenges

From singing birds to droning bees, the Wroten house is filled with sound.

Tom and Tibby Wroten, ‘99 and ‘01 respectively, raise chickens, a duck, a turtle, fish, mealworms, bees and birds (along with a child).

And they’re not the only ones with offbeat pets. Teacher Patricia Jacobsen has a hedgehog, junior Micaela Bennett-Smith has a pig, chickens, a duck and a goat and sophomore Jakob Sands used to own two alpacas.

But these unusual pets come with unusual challenges.

The Wroten family’s obsession with pets began when the two started dating. Tom had a turtle, and Tibby owned a bird.

“Toshiro (the bird) wasn’t the biggest fan of me, so Tibby got me a bird of my own, and then later we bought a third bird together,” Tom said.

The Wrotens’ fourth bird is a lovebird, which they rescued after it flew into their friend’s house one Super Bowl Sunday. In fact, most of their animals are rescues.

In 2011, Tibby wanted to be a beekeeper, so the Wrotens started their first hive. They recently started their fourth one, because the previous three had died out.

In fact, they have harvested honey from only one hive, which produced a total of 35 pounds.

Later that year, they decided to raise chickens for fresh eggs. They collect about five eggs a day and give some to neighbors and friends.

But with so many animals spread out along the food chain, Tom worries about some being eaten by others. For instance, the bees make tasty snacks for the chickens.

The Wrotens used to have a hedgehog but swapped it with  Jacobsen for the duck.

Once Jacobsen got the hedgehog, she changed its name from Thistle to Ernest Hedgingway, following a suggestion from freshman Jaelan Trapp.

It has been a challenge for Jacobsen to introduce Ernest to her children and her other pets, as he is nocturnal and her children and the duck typically go to bed at 8:30 p.m.

“My duck and Ernest haven’t met,” Jacobsen said.

Like the Wrotens, she worries about her animals interacting.

“Our cat, Tiger, is very interested in the duck and wants to play all the time,” Jacobsen said.

“The problem is the game Tiger wants to play involves hunting and killing, and I’m afraid that Tiger will end up taking it too far.”

Jacobsen added that taking care of her duck was difficult, as he is very high-maintenance.

“He thinks we are ‘besties,’” Jacobsen said.

“He follows me around everywhere and he quacks, especially if he can see me through the windows on our back door.”

He also follows Jacobsen to the street and back when she takes out the garbage.

Sands’s alpacas posed different problems.

Though they did produce wool and eat the grass on his large property, he said they defecated a lot, which made the grass full of feces.

Alpacas also need exercise, so Sands used to take the alpacas on walks on nearby trails and got some odd looks.

“I’d have to put them on a leash,” Sands said.

When Sands moved to a house with less land, his family sent the alpacas to a farm to live with over 70 others.

Junior Micaela Bennett-Smith raised her pig Ruby as an indoor pet, but only for a few months.

“(At first) she lived in the house like a little dog,” Bennett-Smith said.

But then Ruby was moved outside because she was rooting up the linoleum in the laundry room, Bennett-Smith said.

And once she was outside, she started to wander. One time when Ruby went missing, Bennett-Smith followed the footprints for over two miles.

“We ended up calling the pound and asking if they had any pigs,” she said. “It turned out they had over 20 and asked ‘Which one do you want?’”

Bennett-Smith found Ruby there, but noticed she had gained some weight.

“She was so fat that we had to push her up her little ramp,” Bennett-Smith said.

“When she doesn’t want to move, she’ll just sit down, and it’s impossible to get her to budge.”

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