Caring for Animals During Winter

During winter, I get asked frequently about when animals need to be brought inside and what kind of care they need to handle the cold weather. Obviously the answer to those questions depends on the animal, but there are a few rules of thumb you can follow to ensure your animals are comfy even on the coldest days. And as I type those to semi-professional sounding sentences, all I can think of is how I left my dogs outside one morning, in the cold, for longer than usual and the chaos that followed that choice. They both started barking and howling and I was currently dealing with two screaming children and feeling overwhelmed so I did what any saint of a mother would do: I screamed too. 

I opened up the door rather forcefully, shouted at the top of my lungs for my dogs to shut up please quiet down and then slammed the door shut. But I didn’t really want to slam it shut, it’s been so cold that the inner workings of the door latch have started to freeze in the mornings so you really do have to give it a slam to get them loose.

No more than thirty seconds after my delightful outburst, there was a knock on my door. All the color drained from my face and I sheepishly answered the door, dressed in oversized pajamas, with a no makeup face, and crazy you-went-to-bed-with-wet-hair, hair.

It was one of Andy’s clients. Picking up their vehicle {hence the howling}. And they just wanted to drop off a check for Andy. For a significant amount of money.

They probably had reservations handing it to his crazy wife.

I do embarrassing stuff all the time. But this cute little episode is definitely in the top 5. Oh my gosh you guys. I AM SO EMBARRASSING. At least I was wearing a bra. Is that TMI? Sorry.

Morals of this story: Don’t shout, try and get dressed before 9 am, and don’t leave your doberman outside when it’s freezing.

Caring for Animals During Winter

But really, she was totally fine and hadn’t been out for more than 45 minutes. Poppy is just a little prissy about a lot of things. And I promise I have some good tips on caring for animals during winter!  As I mentioned above, this is going to depend on the animal. If livestock and thickly furred dogs have a place to stay dry and out of the wind, they are fine to stay outside in some pretty crazy cold weather. I bring our livestock into the barn if it is going to be below zero {or if the windchill will take it below zero}. Other than that, they are left outside and they actually prefer it that way.

Caring for Animals During Winter takes a little more thought and effort, but it isn't hard. Read this post for tips on how to keep yours comfy this winter!

The key is making sure they can stay dry and have a place to get out of the elements. Having a sufficient shelter in open areas is a must for any animal. If you can bed it with something to keep it dry and make it easy to clean, that is even better.

Providing ruminants with a constant supply of feed that is a medium quality {takes longer to digest} is also beneficial. The working digestive system actually helps keep the animals warm!

Caring for Animals During Winter

Make sure your animals have access to water at all times during the winter! Water is just as important in the cold weather as it is in hot weather. I like heated buckets, it’s much easier than breaking ice multiple times a day and ensures the animals always have access to a water source.

The care horses require will vary depending on the breed, body condition score, and the kind of winter care they are accustomed too. If it is a horse that is a hard keeper, I always blanket them. There is no point in having a horse who is already hard to keep loose body condition trying to stay warm. If you clip your horses for winter use, always use a blanket to make up for the missing hair! Hopefully that would be obvious. If your horses are used to staying outside, they are find to remain there, again as long as they have adequate shelter.

Caring for Animals During Winter

I don’t provide any of my animals with supplemental heat, not even my chickens. Animals who are accustomed to being outside will naturally adapt as the weather gets colder. The only special care I give my chickens during winter is protection from frostbite. Frostbite happens when there is moisture in the air, so make sure your coop is properly vented. On nights that are below freezing, I apply a light layer of thick lotion or petroleum jelly to their combs and any that have large wattles. This acts as a protectant against the cold and can help to prevent frostbite.

Caring for Animals During Winter

If you have an animal who is struggling in the cold, give them a thorough health check. It may be an indication they have an underlying health issue that didn’t present itself when they weren’t dealing with weather stress. Bring the animal into a warmer area, like a barn, and watch to make sure they are eating and drinking and pooping. If the issue persists, consult with your veterinarian.

I hope these tips for caring for animals during winter were useful! What do you do for your animals in cold weather?

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