Family Portrait: Meet the Conleys

Family of five lives in Kensington with two pygmy goats, two ducks and five chickens




Left to right: Millie, Debbie, Nora, Jack and Tim Conley with goat Oreo and one of their chickens. Photo by Liz Lynch

Debbie and Tim Conley live with their children—Jack, 6, Nora, 4, and Millie, 1—in a brick rambler on a suburban street in Kensington. But step into their backyard and you’ll find two pygmy goats, two ducks and five chickens. Debbie, 28, a stay-at-home mom, and Tim, 32, a vice president of wealth management at Morgan Stanley, say they always wanted pets, but never imagined it would look like this.

Getting goats: Last July, Tim took Jack and Nora to a client’s farm in Brandywine, Maryland, where Nora fell in love with a baby pygmy goat named Brownie. Feeling spontaneous, Tim decided to surprise Debbie by purchasing Brownie and another goat, which Jack named Oreo for its black and white hair. When they got home, Tim helped the kids sneak the goats into the backyard. “At some point, Nora said she was going outside to see the goats, and I thought she was just using her imagination, so I said, ‘Yeah, go play with the goats,’ ” Debbie says.

“When I finally saw them, I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry.” She quickly came around to the animals, so much so that in February the family added five chicks and two ducks.

One big happy family: Debbie says Brownie and Oreo are inseparable. “We’ve caught the chicks standing on Brownie and Oreo’s backs, sometimes three at a time,” she says. “It’s hilarious because the goats don’t even seem to notice.”

Winter madness: During the blizzard last winter, Debbie was worried that the goats would get stuck in the snow, so she brought them inside. “They were so scared and literally pooped everywhere,” she says. “We finally opened up the big shed out back and lay down hay for them. I was out there for hours digging through the snow, but they were so much happier after.”

Perfect pets: Unlike dogs, farm animals don’t need to be walked. “You get the best of both worlds,” Debbie says. “You get the love and affection of the animals, and the kids love them, but you don’t need to spend all your time caring for them.”

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