What do you do, when winter arrives suddenly? These quick winter tips for poultry and livestock care will help you weather the early season storms and cold snaps that catch you off guard. Winter in our area is usually late in arriving and occasionally we can get caught off guard. Sometimes, I am not completely ready! I know I profess to be prepared and usually I am. On occasion I have to turn to a few quick winter tips for poultry and livestock care that will help ensure the comfort and health of our farm critters. Read through the quick winter tips and stay warm out there.
Quick Winter Tips for Water Needs
Freezing water is something many homesteaders tangle with from October to May. Although our farm is in a more moderate climate, we still need to chop ice out of buckets. One thing that helps keep the water buckets from freezing is partially burying the bucket in sawdust and straw. The top of the water bucket might get a thin layer of ice but it is easily broken through.
There are differing opinions on adding hot water to the water bucket, but I have been doing so for years. Maybe it does not prolong the time the water stays above freezing. I have not tested this. I will tell you that 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 warm water from the house in used gallon jugs. Adding just a gallon to a bucket of frosty water seems to do the trick.
The ducks, rabbits, chickens, sheep and goats all take long, satisfying drinks of the warmed up water. And that makes me feel like I have made their lives a bit better. Even a quick winter tip like bringing warm water makes a big difference. Animals can actually require more water during extreme cold. The body requires water to perform metabolic processes which create body heat. And another tip, eating snow and ice won’t hurt your animals but it won’t supply enough water for their needs.
Quick Winter Tips for Care of Water Hoses
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.
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.
Hopefully, you did some barn and coop preparations, as fall arrived. Cleaning up and replacing used bedding with dry straw helps your animals and poultry stay warm and dry. 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. Read more on Deep Litter Bedding in Coops here.
When storms or frigid temperatures hit and your livestock are not acclimated to the change, you might choose to keep them in the barn or coops for a day. Making sure to have extra straw on hand to keep the barns and coops clean is a great idea. Livestock and poultry are very resilient to winter temperatures. However, when severe winter hits suddenly, it can be a stress factor. We only have small herds and flocks, so when a storm or sudden change occurs we can move the animals to the barn. The chickens have large coops and can shelter inside if the cold weather is suddenly extreme. Gradually, they all become quite tolerant of the cold temperatures and can go about the day as usual.
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 plexi-glass windows that I can take in and out as the weather demands. It is not a good thing to totally close up the coop or rabbit hutches as air circulation is needed. Check that the roof line or end vents are clear and working properly.
Different Needs for Different Species
Each animal species is going to have different needs during a cold snap. Cattle may be perfectly comfortable and happy standing in a field with snow falling around them. As long as they have plenty of hay and drinking water, they can be just fine. We had a large field shelter for our cattle, but they often chose to stand out in the snow.
Sheep may also prefer to stay out in the pastures. I still recommend that there is some sort of shelter available and a way to refresh the frozen water a few times during the day.
Goats can be a totally different story. I do know some folks who say their goats don’t mind wet, cold weather. Mine won’t stick a foot out of the barn if it’s raining or snowing. Goats that are forced to go outside to browse or graze may just decide to go hungry.
Although pigs don’t have a thick fur coat, they can be quite snug buried in a big pile of dry straw, in a shelter. It is amusing to see them stick their heads out of the straw in the morning.
Chickens and ducks are well equipped to stay warm during even the coldest of winter nights. Given a proper shelter/coop for warmth and safety, good quality grain during the day and fresh water, the poultry will be winter champs.
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 each year. There are many of us in more moderate areas for winter. We can follow some quick winter tips for poultry and livestock comfort and safety.
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Continue reading? Keeping Animals Through the Winter