I always worry more about my critters during the winter months. It’s so cold, windy, damp, and often miserable. I try to make sure I’m ready for any type of weather that comes along, so I can offer my animals a comfortable place to live during even the harshest winter Mother Nature can muster up. Here are some helpful hints and tips to help you and your furry or feathery loved ones brave the cold months ahead.
I’ve found empty feed sacks and garbage bags are handy to have around the house. I staple feed sacks to the outside of the rabbit cages for a wind barrier, then place garbage bags or large sheets of plastic over those. I only use plastic on the side where wind and rain/snow/sleet are prevalent. Sheets of tin make great wind barriers on larger sections of my chicken pen. The run the chickens scratch around in during inclement weather has tin halfway up the sides so they are protected from the wind as they enjoy the outdoors.
Bales of straw make excellent wind barriers that can later be used for mulch in the garden. I stack a couple of bales next to my dog’s house to prevent the wind from rushing in her front door. She also likes to perch on top of them and make sure the farm is in order and the chickens are safe.
Keeping Water from Freezing
The ideal way to prevent frozen water bowls is to invest in some plastic bowls made specifically for winter weather. They range between 20 and 30 bucks and can be found at feed stores or farm supply places. Another option is to use rubber bowls, also found at farm supply and feed stores, and place a heat lamp over the top of them. The black rubber is thick and tends to retain heat for some time. I’ve found a heat lamp to be sufficient for keeping a portion of the water in these bowls free of ice.
Just like people, animals need more food during the winter in order to help them keep warm. I feed my donkey a couple of cups of beet pulp soaked in warm water in the morning and evening during wintertime. He also still gets his hay and grain. The beet pulp is digested at a slower rate, which gives his body plenty of additional fuel for warmth. I also put a little fat on top of my dog’s food and the food for the barn kitties in the morning.
Providing Additional Warmth
Brooding or heat lamps not only help keep water from freezing, but they also keep your chickens from being feathery Popsicles as well. Last night, I noticed a large well in the straw under one of the heat lamps in a section of the chicken pen that isn’t used often. When I went out to close up the chicken coop for the night, one of the barn cats was lounging in the ‘nest’ under the heat lamp. So, it seems like more than just the chickens are enjoying that lamp light!
Heated pet beds are also a popular hangout spot during the winter. I have two for my plethora of cats and they are set on timers. I don’t like leaving them turned on all day, so the timers allow the beds to heat up for a bit, then it’s up to the kitty’s body temp to maintain the warmth for a while. If you don’t have an area with an outlet nearby, you can make a simple pet bed that reflects your pet’s body heat. Use a fuzzy fleece blanket, fold it in half and place one of those silver emergency blankets in between the two layers of fleece. You can sew the shiny blanket in place, but I prefer to simply lay it inside the blanket so I can wash the fleece when needed.
Do you have any additional ways to help keep animals comfy during the winter?