12/03/2009 at 03:35 PM EST
When the roar of a motorcycle engine or the squabbling of co-worker relatives gets to be too much for Paul Teutul Sr. of TLC's American Chopper
, all he has to do is head outside the city to his 48-acre farm in upstate New York and open a window. Then, it's all sweet little neighs, bleats and moos from his miniature menagerie of farm animals – and a few deep barks from bullmastiffs Marty and Gus. "I am just an animal lover," explains the beefy, 60-year-old tattooed custom bike expert. "And miniature animals are more friendly."
For the past four years, Teutul's little farmyard oasis – home to five miniature horses, five goats and pairs of miniature donkeys, alpacas, baby doll sheep and highlander cows – has served as a petting zoo. There, all the animals live together in harmony – unlike the Teutuls, whose family business clashes are seen weekly on their reality show as they construct custom motorcycles in their shop. "I didn't have the most loving family," Teutul explains. "And with animals, it is about unconditional love, companionship and everything you don't get from the type of family I came from."
Growing up in Yonkers, N.Y., Teutul would say goodbye to his loyal dog Shep and then go down the street to a pal's house and play cowboys, setting up tiny plastic horses with a corral and pretending for hours. Now, he's got real miniature horses of his own. "Having a horse was a dream of mine since I was a kid," he says. "Roy Rogers and all that stuff. I didn't need to ride them, it is just nice having them around."
With his pockets full of treats, Teutul says he loves the experience of walking out into the pasture and having all the animals huddle around him. "I am surrounded by animals," he says of the feeding frenzy. Any favorites in the group? "I like my cows, they are beautiful," he says. "One is red and one is gray. They're docile and you can comb them and feed them by hand."
Still, they aren't without their own unique challenges. One jumped a 4-ft. stone wall and escaped into the neighboring woods. Teutul had to catch a plane early that morning and so his wife was left in charge of locating and returning the escapee, named Gracie. "They found Gracie five miles away in the next town," he says, laughing. "My wife had to bring her back home, walking on the road. She had to get behind Gracie and push her from the rear while someone else pulled on a rope from the front. It took her five or six hours. My wife was not amused."
Now, the family is getting ready for the holiday season – when bullmastiff Gus has been known to sport a red Santa cap and reindeer horns and kids drop in for the sights. "We've had events here where the kids get to go fishing at the pond and then spend time with the animals," he says. "They love the animals. We all do." For the latest with Paul Teutul Sr. and Orange County Choppers, tune in to TLC's American Chopper for the premiere Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. ET, featuring a custom built bike for the Iraq Star Foundation, celebs Gary Sinese and Jon Voigt, and more Teutul family drama.Click here to see a photo gallery of Teutul's cows and canines!