HOUSTON – On a very special three-acre patch of land in Fort Bend County, lives a mom, a dad, their five children, and dozens of rescued animals.
Erin Mahaffey runs the Mahaffey Funny Farm, a non-profit animal sanctuary, designed to give a second chance to many species. It’s a mission she takes on with love and a healthy dose of humor.
“All of our animals have a story and I think that’s what makes this place so special too,” said Mahaffey. “Many of these animals were always loved. It was not a situation where the owners did not want them."
Most of the animals come from homes where the owners, for one reason or another, couldn’t continue to care for them.
There’s a pair of pigs, Elvis and Bandit, that were taken in from couple when the husband had to become the primary caregiver for his wife.
“Elvis, he is kind of our mascot, because he is everybody’s best friend. This is the most social, sweetest pig you could ever imagine,” said Mahaffey.
An assortment of chickens lives in a coop dubbed “The Chick Inn” and behind a gate painted with the words “last one in is a rotten egg.”
Here you’ll find a chicken affectionally dubbed Little Mama.
“Her favorite thing to do is to sit in the coop and try to hatch all the eggs. We don’t have a rooster so none will ever hatch, but she tries really, really hard.”
The rescued critters include small species that will be up for adoption, like turtles and bunnies.
On the larger side, she’s bought alpacas and given a home to miniature horses and playful goats.
“These goats are like toddlers. They love slides, climbing, they jump in the dog houses.”
The animals seem to know they’re in good hands and seem to get along. A farm cat hangs out with the pigs and a sulcata tortoise named Kiwi casually strolls past chickens.
When asked how she handles it all, Mahaffey says simply she loves it.
“Simple answer is I don’t stop. I love busy work. I love being out with the animals, feeding, cleaning, sweating, working my buns off, and I enjoy that.”
During this time of social distancing, social media is where she spreads her love of laughter.
In the Spring, her traditional Texas bluebonnet pictures featured her in a gown looking adoringly at a pack of toilet paper she had just secured at a time when TP was hard to find on store shelves.
She’s also started a new Friday tradition which has prompted her followers to suggest she create a calendar.
“Every Friday, I try to do a photo recreation and it is the most ridiculous thing that I have a blast doing,” said Mahaffey. “If it makes somebody else laugh, that brings me joy.”
Mahaffey’s followers send her vintage photographs which she tries her best to recreate with her rescued animals. She of course also shares the outtakes.
In one, she was dressed like a man in overalls holding Cankles, one of her rescue chickens.
Cankles was the lone survivor from a shipment of chicks that was supposed to arrive at a feed store but ended up sitting in a warehouse. Erin worked around the clock to save the frail bird, syringe feeding it and even carrying it on her chest like a human baby. It worked and Cankles is another success story at the Mahaffey Funny Farm.
Since sharing her animal sanctuary stories on social media, Mahaffey says she’s often getting messages from people looking for assistance.
“Every single day I’m getting tagged in things and I’m kind of at my capacity now, because we are for the most part financing this all on our own and I never want to get in over my head.”
When Mahaffey can’t help, she works tirelessly through her network of contacts to find someone else who can. Her organization earned non-profit status earlier this year which has opened the door for additional fundraising and benefits that will help her help more animals.
And for Mahaffey, that’s reason to keep smiling and keep busy both on the farm and on social media.