Diane Marsh of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in Langley

Langley home to a happy herd of farm animals

A Langley couple has turned their acreage into a sanctuary.

On the Aldergrove-Langley border, four acres have become a haven for animals whose lives would have been cut short if not for Diane Marsh and Stephen Wiltshire.

The co-founders of Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary moved to the property as a retirement plan about eight years ago, thinking they’d rescue a few scruffy chickens.

But as is often the case, life changes, due to a friend – or possibly a cow – that needs help.

“The idea was I was going to rescue some ugly old chickens and that was going to be our life,” Marsh said.

Around that time, Wiltshire joined the Sea Shepherds to work with others in helping to save the planet’s oceans.

As Marsh explained, Wiltshire witnessed dolphins being slaughtered and became a vegan.

“After that happened, I went to the slaughter to pick up some more chickens,” Marsh said. “And I just happened to see this calf and it spoke to me and I called Steve and he said to bring it home and that was Desmond, our first cow and a week later there was a baby pig and that was Lucy.”

Desi and Lucy were named after Lucille Ball and her ex-husband Desi Arnaz, but unlike the human Desi and Lucy couple, this pair stayed together like many other animals at Happy Herd. About four years ago, at the prompting of friends, the concept of the sanctuary became a reality.

The Happy Herd includes all kinds of animals who receive love from Marsh, Wiltshire and a team of more than 15 regular, dedicated volunteers who take care of cleaning animal houses and pens, feeding and regular maintenance.

“In the summer we’ll have work days where they’ll come out and paint the [animal] houses,” Marsh said of what volunteers do. “They pick up grain, do feeding and just help out with whatever needs to be done that day. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

PHOTO: Danica Marchello helps at Happy Herd. (Rick Moyer/Langley Advance)

Colleen Rhodes is one of those volunteers. She visits once a month.

“Because I love animals, because I’m vegan,” she said of why she chooses to volunteer at Happy Herd. “I just like helping those who need it, like Diane. Usually I hang out with the goats. They love to eat my hair.”

Even electricians and roofers have come out for the day to donate their time in keeping things in good shape.

There’s a big need with a house, barn and all the outbuildings on the property that shelter the donkey, three male cows, two outdoor pigs and one house pig, eight goats, three sheep, two turkeys (Larry and Moe), 60 chickens, about 15 ducks, seven roosters, two dogs, three cats and two humans.

The two humans, as Marsh explained, are the afterthought in the herd. While on the phone with the Langley Advance, she let Bertha the 10.4 pound house-chicken inside.

“When you start getting attached to them you start realizing there’s not a big difference between them and my dog,” she said. “The world is changing. And, because of the internet, the welfare of animals has really woken a lot of people up. There’s going to be lots of us opening up.”

While Diane explained that Happy Herd is all about the animals, she and Wiltshire work to help other humans as well – though the connection is still animals. Another animal sanctuary, Twin Heart in Tappen, B.C., fell into some hard times so on Boxing Day Marsh and others held a fundraiser to help.

Running an animal sanctuary isn’t easy. Marsh would like to expand the operation to a larger area, but it all takes money.

“We get a lot of our food donated to us,” Marsh said. “We’re always in need of funds for more food.”

A shipping container has been donated to the Herd to create a safer environment for the feed-rooms and eliminate the rat problem associated with the existing structures.

“We probably get asked to take an animal three to four times a week but because of lack of space we are unable to do that,” noted Marsh. “The long range plan is eventually to expand and get more acreage and of course to do that we need more donations.”

Happy Herd is open for daily tours by appointment.

Those looking to find out more can contact Marsh at animals@happyherd.org.

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