Outgrown playhouses keep these kids happy

By Rusty Tagliareni

Goats are playful creatures. Also inquisitive. So when Lisa Gromacki, owner and operator of the Gillikays Raw Goat Milk farm in Middletown, started utilizing discarded children’s playhouses, slides, and other brightly-colored plastic activity equipment, it made a lot of sense.But did the goats really use the slides?“Yes, they love them,” said Gromacki, guiding my gaze to a neighboring pen. Therein a large goat was standing on a raised wooden platform, performing what I can best describe as tap-dancing with its front hooves on the top of the bright orange slide. Unfortunately it didn’t follow through with a proper slide, having been distracted by a bushel of hay.Gromacki found most of these playhouses, along with raised sandboxes and pieces of jungle gym equipment, on the side of the road awaiting garbage pickup. They’re not only entertaining for the goats, she said, but provide a dry accessible surface for feeding time, keeping hay and grain off the ground.Outgrown playhouses make good shelters for backyard chickens, too, with the bonus of being inconspicuous. In Westchester’s Croton-on-Hudson, first-time chicken owner Katrina Krasnansy pulled a wooden playhouse off the side of the road, not for her two young children, but for her three young hens. Originally intended to be an “annex,” the playhouse — fortified with plywood and pink foam insulation — made a superior coop to the $300 pre-fab one she’d bought. (She’ll use that first coop to raise more chicks in the spring.) This playhouse lacks a slide, but the hens don’t seem to mind.