Raising Reindeer | Living the Country Life

Raising Reindeer

When Santa chose reindeer to pull his sleigh, he must have known what sweet animals they are
Photo courtesy of Ohio State University

Santa’s reindeer are considered domesticated animals. They’re curious, friendly critters and exhibitions at Christmas time make them profitable, too. You may not know if you’re looking at a male or female because both sexes have antlers.

Cindy Murdoch raises about a-dozen reindeer on her 20-acre farm in Oregon. She says they need a diet of specific pellets and fine-stemmed hay to keep them healthy, but they’re like goats. They’ll eat almost anything if you let them.

"There’s very little that they won’t mess with. It could be black plastic. It could be a feed bag. If it’s there, they’re going to gum it and eat it, and then they have four stomachs so things get kind of bound up," says Murdoch. "But one thing that people don’t know about reindeer is what they eat sticks with them for six months."

Reindeer should be kept in a barn at night to keep them safe from predators. They don’t have the wild instinct to run away, but if they do they can’t run very far. Maybe that’s because they’re better at flying, right kids?

Murdoch says reindeer are docile animals and very in tune with people. They aren’t bothered by much and are easily trainable. Her method of training them for public appearances is to bring an older reindeer and a younger reindeer to the event.

"When there’s a noise, a loud noise, a backfire, a siren, a tuba festival, whatever it is, that older one evaluates immediately. They’ve either heard it before and know it’s not a danger, or they evaluate it and they react, or they don’t react. The younger one’s not watching the noise, they’re watching the older one," she says. "And if the older one doesn’t react, the younger one doesn’t react and they kind of seem to file that away for future reference."

Murdoch says while it may seem really cool to own reindeer, she strongly recommends doing your homework before deciding if it’s for you.  

Start your homework here to learn more about raising reindeer.

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