What to do when winter arrives suddenly? These quick winter tips for poultry and livestock care will help you weather the early season storms that catch you off guard.
“It was a bright autumn day with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it” Diana Gabaldon Outlander
And, then it wasn’t. Winter in our area is usually late in arriving but occasionally we can get caught off guard in the later part of our fall growing and farming season with an unusual cold snap combined with a storm front that promises wind, rain and possible snow showers. This is our forecast for the next week. Normal temperatures this time of year for us would be sunny days with highs in the 40’s or 50’s. This week we hear that the weather will tank sometime the day after tomorrow and a long stretch of cold rainy weather will begin Whoa! I am not completely ready! I know I profess to be prepared and usually I am. I am prepared for a lot of different scenarios, but today and tomorrow I will be carrying out a few quick winter tips for poultry and livestock care that will help ensure the comfort and health of our farm critters.
Quick Winterizing Tasks
Freezing water is something many homesteaders tangle with from October to May but I am in a more moderate climate. Last winter, I think I only needed to chop ice out of buckets a few times even though we did have a lot of snow for our area. One thing that helps keep the water buckets from freezing is partially burying the bucket in sawdust and straw. The top might get a thin layer of ice but it is easily broken through. I know that there are differing opinions on adding hot water to the water bucket but I have been doing so for years. I have heard that it does not prolong the time the water stays above freezing. I have not tested this but I will tell you adding warm water to the bucket makes my goats very happy. They always take a long drink and seem to be very happy for the warm water. I carry the warm water from the house in used gallon jugs. Adding even a gallon to a bucket of frosty water seems to do the trick.
Also, on the topic of water, now is a good time to drain any hoses you use to get water to your barn. It’s pretty frustrating to need to refill water during a cold snap and find the hose clogged with ice. Drain the hoses easily by laying them on a slight hill so the water drains out. When empty, roll up the hose and put it somewhere that it won’t be buried under snow.
Water containers If possible use the flexible rubber bowls or buckets in the winter. These are easier to get ice out of without breaking the container. Ceramic bowls will crack in cold weather. Plastic buckets may become brittle too.
Feed and hay Grab some concentrate feed to supplement with even if your livestock, goats, cows, sheep, llamas etc, are usually on pasture. Ice and snow may mean you have to keep the animals in a shelter for a day or two and they will need calories to stay warm. Supplement with hay if they cannot graze. Your chickens, ducks and turkeys will appreciate some scratch grains to keep them a little warmer.
Dry Bedding Cleaning out old damp bedding and replacing it with dry shavings and straw will help insulate and keep the animals dry and comfortable. If you haven’t already started your deep litter coop bedding for winter, now would be a great time to get started. If the bad weather has already hit your area, I would just add some straw for insulation and wait until a nicer weather pattern comes along. I have two days before it hits here, so I will be stripping out the coop and duck house and adding dry shavings and straw. This will be the base for our deep litter coop bedding this winter. Read more on Deep Litter Bedding in Coops here.
Block the wind If the storm will blow snow and rain into a stall or chicken coop, set up some type of temporary wind block. For our duck house we use old feed bags against the wire enclosed windows to keep the rain out. The windows in our chicken house have drop in plexiglass windows that I can take in and out as the weather demands. It is not a good thing to totally close up the coop as air circulation needed. But if the storm will be blowing rain into the coop then we close up some of the windows.
So fill up some gallon jugs with tap water, drain the farm hoses and grab a bag of feed to tide everyone over. You may live in an area that is used to severe winter weather but some of the country will be taken unaware this week. With a few preparations you can help your animals be cozy and comfortable while you wait for more normal temperatures to return.
Have a Safe Week
Continue reading? Keeping Animals Through the Winter
This post was shared on Simple Saturdays, Simple Life Sunday, Homestead Barn Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection, The HomeAcre Hop, From the Farm