Preparing The Animals For Winter
This morning when I took the kiddos out to the bus-stop, I was surprised by how chilly 52 degrees felt. I have to admit, I got a little excited about needing to put a hoodie on and a pair of slippers while I stood on the porch with the kids. I couldn’t help but think that the days are coming fast when I’ll be able to see my own breath as I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to the kiddos for the day. It made me think of apple cinnamon, hot cocoa, the smell of our wood stove burning, and the sight of snow.
But it also got me thinking that it is time to make sure that our animals are prepared and cared for throughout the winter months.
I’m thankful that we don’t have winters here in the Ozarks like we had in Pennsylvania. But some of the Old-Timers have told me that there have been winters where huge snow and ice storms have blown through here and have rendered the area inoperable for days and weeks at a time. We also do get snow, not much but some, and it does get pretty cold here – not Wyoming cold – but cold enough.
I want our animals to be well-cared for on our farm. Just as my little people have a warm, safe, dry place to live, so should our animals. So as the colder days are on the fast-track to our area, we will be spending this week making sure we are all ready!
Preparing The Animals For Winter
barn/coop cleaning and inspection
While we still have warm, sunny days in the forecast the Moore Crew will do a deep clean of the entire barn and the chicken coop. We’ll clean out all the bedding, and sweep all the dust and cobwebs away. We’ll also do a good inspection for any cracks or holes that need to be sealed and make any repairs on gates, latches, doors, etc. We’ve been using wooden swing gates that Hubs made himself for the stall doors, but Sassy is a bit rough on everything – so we’ll be changing them out to the metal swing gates that we are currently using in the garden. Once everything is clean and smelling nice again, we’ll start laying down the deep litter.
We use deep litter for our chickens and I’m learning that the same can be done with our goats as well. This weekend we’ll be cleaning out the barn, sprinkling some fresh food-grade DE on the ground, and then putting down a fresh layer of straw for the winter. I also mix in some pine shavings to help keep the barn smelling a little better. We’ll do this in the goat’s area and then move into the chicken area. Our chickens and goats hang out together during the day, but at night they each have their own sections of the barn they go to. Every week or so throughout the winter, when I go out to do my regular tidying up of the place, I’ll lay a fresh layer of straw and shavings down. This will create a nice thick layer of bedding that will stay clean, dry, and warm through-out the winter months. Any areas that need quick cleaning throughout the winter will be cleaned up and added to the compost pile. You can use a small shovel for this or get a manure rake. The downfall to this method is the huge clean-up job come Spring, the up-side is that all this deep litter will be great to use in the garden.
Extra hay, Minerals & Feed
As we move into the colder months, our chickens will be molting and goats, especially does who are pregnant or nursing need extra hay to keep them warm. Having enough hay and feed put up to get through the cold winter months is extremely important. We will provide our goats with a little extra grain to help them keep on a little weight in order to keep warmer in the winter. Also, goats and chickens both love warm oatmeal and this is a great way to warm them up through the long, cold days. To ensure that we can keep our animal’s feed and hay dry we are converting an old chicken coop into a hay/feed shed. We have discussed leaving it the size that it is or making it smaller by half. If we keep it the size it is now, we can fit 12 straw bales, 12 hay bales, and several barrels of feed inside.
a way to keep water thawed
My friend over at Farm Fit Living has a great article about how to keep your water from freezing. When it was only the chickens it wasn’t too hard for us to make sure their water kept from freezing, but the goats are a whole new ballgame. Our goats drink a lot of water and up until recently, we were just using small kiddie pools to put their water in. However, we are changing over to using stock tanks. I know the pools are easier to clean, but they simply don’t hold enough water and we are constantly filling them. With the stock tank, we’ll also be able to use a submergible stock tank water heater that will automatically kick on when the temperature hits 40 degrees.
inventory medical supplies
As the colder months come closer, I also think it is important to take an inventory of any medical supplies we have on hand. The last thing I want is to run into a medical emergency in the middle of a snow or ice storm and find that I’m out of something essential that one of my goat’s needs. A few supplies I like to keep on hand are: dewormer, copper bolus, probiotics, coccidia medication, electrolytes (click here for a homemade recipe for chickens, and click here for goats) and CDT vaccinations are the main medical supplies I like to have on hand.
A few other items I like to be sure are ready for winter are old blankets and towels to wrap a goat in who may have gotten wet or who is sick. I also have a heat lamp, but I do not like to use it in my barn. Heat lamps are known for starting fires and I worry that our barn would catch on fire and we’d lose our entire herd. I’m working on safety measures to ensure that if we need to heat up an area of our barn quickly we can do so.
We are still working on preparing the homestead house for winter. That will be a project that is going to take longer than a weekend. If you read my introduction to The Heart of the Homestead: The Moore You Know.….Everything is always a hot-mess around here and there are just certain projects that are not very organized. As a result, they take a bit longer to complete. I’m adding this unorganized hot mess to the next What Not To Do When Homesteading list!