Story By Ethan Stamper
Photos Contributed By Bingham Farms
Nestled amidst the picturesque countryside of Coker, Alabama, lies a hidden gem that captivates hearts and minds alike — Bigham Farms and Exotics. Owned and operated by the passionate conservationists Jessica and Richard Bigham, this small family-owned farm and zoo is not your average tourist attraction. With a firm commitment to conservation and education, the Bigham family has created a sanctuary where exotic animals and learning come together in perfect harmony.
Bigham Farms and Exotics began as a labor of love. Richard and Jessica Bigham shared a deep-rooted love for wildlife and a burning desire to make a difference. In 2022, after saving up enough money in order to go all in, they decided to pursue their dream of running a farm and zoo that would serve as an educational platform for children and adults alike. With hard work, dedication and support from the local community, their vision came to life.
“We wanted to keep it really, really small because we knew, with just us two, we can keep it extremely nice with plants and cages that are bigger than most people will keep these types of animals in,” Richard said. “We’re really concentrating more on the wellbeing of the animals rather than being a huge place; [with being a massive place] you can’t learn different animals fast enough as far as what their requirements are, what their needs are, and then [the] animals are suffering.”
The farm is home to an impressive array of creatures, each more enchanting than the last. From majestic tortoises to playful lemurs, colorful peacocks to a delightful menagerie of chickens, turkeys and birds, Bigham Farms and Exotics has something to amaze visitors of all ages. Snakes, emus and even a wallaby also find their haven here, providing guests with an immersive experience and a chance to learn about this diverse group of animals and how they live.
“We get the question a lot, ‘what’s your next animal?’ and we really don’t know, we’re not looking to buy or get another animal; someone could call us tonight and say ‘I’ve got this, this, this,’ and it might check a couple boxes for us, but we’re not actively trying to buy all different kinds of animals and make a Birmingham Zoo,” Richard said. “We just want a small place where people can have birthday parties, have little private tours, come and hang out with family and see the animals on the weekends for a couple of hours.”
At Bigham Farms and Exotics, education is at the heart of everything they do. The Bigham family said they strongly believe that fostering an understanding and appreciation for exotic animals is the key to conservation. They regularly visit local schools, sharing fascinating facts and stories about their animal residents, raising awareness about the importance of taking proper care of these special animals.
“I’m one of those people that think, if you’ve got the money and education, you should be able to keep whatever you want, but seeing how many animals, especially tortoises, come into us [in poor condition,] it’s kind of sad,” Richard said. “Instead of telling people ‘No, you shouldn’t have that,’ I want to educate people on why it’s a good or bad reason to have these certain animals and why it’s important to research it and fully understand the animal before you get it. That’s kind of one of the reasons I do more educational outreach, to educate kids on proper pet care and things of that nature.”
Visitors to Bigham Farms and Exotics are in for an unforgettable experience. The farm offers birthday parties and field trips, allowing children and adults to get up close and personal with the animals. Guided tours conducted by Jessica and Richard give guests insight into each animal’s unique traits, behavior and habitat. The farm’s mission is not only to entertain but to inspire a sense of responsibility and compassion for wildlife.
“I love it; it’s a lot because I have a full-time job, I work here on the weekends and we have two little boys, but I wouldn’t want anything different,” Jessica said. “I enjoy talking with people, and I handle scheduling and booking the parties; I really enjoy it.”
The Bigham family’s dedication to conservation extends beyond their operating hours. During the summer, they open their doors on Fridays and Mondays, welcoming more visitors to share in their mission. In the tranquil pavilion area by the woods, families can savor a picnic lunch in the company of the babbling creek and the peaceful melody of nature. This spot is a favorite for visitors looking to connect with nature in a serene setting.
Bigham Farms and Exotics is much more than a zoo — it’s an adventure that beckons explorers and animal enthusiasts alike. Jessica and Richard’s passion for conservation, coupled with their deep-rooted love for each animal in their care, radiates through every aspect of the farm.
“Back when I was a kid, my father traveled for a living, so we were always on the road, and we would play road games, and my dad would play a game called the Bigham Zoo,” Richard said. “We would plan to build our own zoo one day and I have a bunch of brothers and sisters so I’d be the reptile guy, my brother would be the bird guy and my other brother would be the mammal guy, and we just kind of made little games and I guess I was the only one that took it seriously and actually built a zoo.”
If you find yourself in the charming town of Coker, make sure to reserve a Saturday or Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Whether you’re a family seeking adventure, an animal lover yearning to connect with nature or an eager learner looking to expand your knowledge, Bigham Farms and Exotics promises a heartwarming experience that will leave you inspired and forever changed.