When the temperature plummets we are often asked how the animals cope, here’s how.
For each animal group we make sure there is ample bedding. For the hens that means fresh shavings on the floor of their coop and in their nest boxes. In the cow barn we put down several bales of shavings with bedding hay on top. For the ewes and does a fresh layer of hay in the barn is plenty. The kids like fresh hay in their houses and in their feed tubs (a favorite sleeping spot). The sheep are the most flexible. They love having hay in the barn so they can catch some rays, but they are also well insulated by their wool and many spend the storms outside. After the snow stops the paddock is full of sheep “snow angels” where their shapes are outlined. Sometimes they even lie so still they end up with snow caps, like in the photo of Sap Bat (below).
Everyone drinks more water when it is cold and we often add molasses when it is windy, cold or rainy. The sweet water encourages sipping and adds some extra energy and trace minerals. We fill water at least twice a day, making sure that all the ice has been removed from buckets and troughs. The chickens need water for egg production. For every hour without water it is 24 hours without an egg! We have a heated waterer for the laying hens inside their coop as well as water buckets out in the cow barn so none of the hens have to walk too far. For the geese, water serves an entirely different set of functions. They use water for drinking, bathing and mating activities even in the coldest weather.
Feed, and more Feed
I’m always hungry this time of year and find even after a big hearty breakfast that I am ravenous at mid-morning. Likewise the animals like to snack as often as possible, particularly when it is very cold. For the chickens a generous helping of cracked corn is spread on the bedded pack of the cow barn. The ladies spend much of the morning scratching around and finding every last bit, while fluffing up the bedding for the cows.Since the cows, does and ewes are ruminants (or cud chewers) they need to keep their stomachs full to keep their bodies warm.
Unlike humans (as well as chicken and pigs) who are monogastric (one stomach) ruminants have a four-chambered stomach through which their cud is processed. For more on how rumination works visit this page for a detailed description of each chamber and its function.