Nothing says Spring like cute baby lambs. We've found four
family-friendly places to see the little guys around Chicago.
What child doesn't love baby animals? Even adults
can't resist the feel of a soft, downy chick or the sight of a
spindly-legged newborn lamb. Right now, sheep farms across Illinois
are in the midst of spring lambing. Plan to spend an hour or two
greeting the new arrivals, or make it a day by including other
local points of interest.
Bill Royer welcomes you to his 56-acre farm in Washington, about
three hours from downtown Chicago, where he and his family raise
Suffolk sheep. Bill is looking forward to the birth of nearly 25
lambs between late January and March. If you visit, expect to pet
and hold, and possibly bottle-feed, a baby lamb. Call Bill at (309)
472-3231 or email [email protected]
to set up a tour.
Prairie Park offers picnic areas and food to buy on site. Stop
for lunch and see bison, elk and deer.
Caterpillar Visitor Center in Peoria also is a worthwhile stop,
full of interesting, family-friendly exhibits.
Pioneer Farm in Hampshire is home to a flock of more than 60
registered Dorset sheep as well as goats and chickens. Every
Saturday and Sunday in March, April and May, Pioneer Farm hosts
Open Farm Days 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Watch sheep shearing, and hold a baby
lamb or chick; shell popcorn grown on the premises and pop it on
site. Visitor fees are $5 per person; $11 per family (up to four
The Diecke Discovery Zone in Diecke
Park, Huntley, features an engaging, special-needs-friendly
playground. Eat lunch at the Old West Steakhouse at Donley's Wild West Town in Union.
Located just outside Atlanta, between Peoria and Springfield,
Clint Garey and his son keep a flock of docile Tunis sheep. The
Gareys have been in the sheep business for more than 25 years. Call
Clint at (217) 648-2784 to arrange a visit to his freshly painted
barn to see the spring lambs.
The town of Atlanta is located on historic Route 66 and offers
many interesting attractions, including a 19-foot-tall Paul Bunyan
figure holding a hotdog, and the blue plate special at the 1930s
Palm's Grill Café. See atlantaillinois.org for
Sandy Schrader keeps a small flock of cormo sheep on her
three-acre farmstead in Waterman. Walk through the original peg
barn with Sandy as she shares the history of the farm and see the
gentle cormo sheep, prized for their fine, soft fleece. Sandy will
even demonstrate carding/flicking raw wool and spinning it into
yarn. To arrange a visit, call Sandy at (815) 264-9047, or email
Shabbona Forest Preserve offers beautiful nature trails, a
playground and shelter houses.
Shabbona Lake State
Park has picnic areas, hiking trails and abundant wildlife.
Eight years ago Sandy Schrader realized a long-held dream
when she bought her own farmstead in Waterman. She planned to start
with a dairy cow and some chickens, but it didn't quite turn out
"I bought a few sheep to keep the cow company, and just
never got around to getting the cow," Sandy says with a
Schrader owns Clear View
Farm, a three-acre homestead with the original farmhouse and
peg barn. She keeps a small flock of Cormo sheep, a half dozen
chickens, and a dog named Rusty.
Her know-how came from books, other sheep owners, and
working on her grandparents' dairy farm.
There are no corn mazes or merry-go-round rides at Clear
View Farm. This is a working farm, though Schrader welcomes
visitors and the chance to share her love of the sheep and the
Shading her eyes from the sun, she watches her sheep
nuzzle the grass for stray bits of corn. She sighs
"There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your flock
out grazing, and you know that all is well for right