Having kept animals at home for the last ten years I have found the following things really help when we hit the 'very cold' part of winter. This year hasn't been so bad so far, last year our lowest temp was -27oC and we stayed at below -20oC for a week. All this is fine for us humans, central heating, an Aga, a couple of log burning stoves and even some electric fan heaters kept us warm inside but dealing with our horses and chickens outside was more challenging.
Here is my list -
- Musto snug jodpurs - warm legs and happy me
- Muck boots - these are neoprene wellies, and keep your feet warm and dry (but they do really stink when you take them off, I Febreze mine and my OH's!!)
- I have two galvanised waterers for our chickens - one is always defrosting/defrosted inside the house, ready to be swapped over for the outside one once it freezes (and this can happen a couple of times a day if it's -20!)
- Last year we finally bought and fitted a heatsource tape to the water pipe that supplies my stables - it has a built in thermostat which automatically heats the length of blue water pipe if the temp drops below 3oC. It means that I can fill the horses water buckets in the stable and also outside without having to fill containers from the house and move to the stables/field by wheelbarrow.
- I now use large Tub Trugs as water buckets in the horses stables and in my fields (especially as my automatic waterer freezes solid pretty quickly). They are easy to remove the ice from and flex a bit if they get frozen solid.
- I use a kids (clean) shavings fork to lift ice out from the buckets before I refill them with water - bit basic but stops the water freezing again so quickly.
- We have a section of hardstanding in our paddock nearest the stables, I feed the horses hay from a round (Highland Cattle!) feeding ring there, it stops them standing in mud and means I don't have too far to go to move hay.
- When the temp is really cold, I feed the horses in their stables, do rug checks etc etc and then I leave the stable doors and the gate to the field open. This means they are free to come and go as they please. My two big horses moved home with us from Calgary, Alberta and are used to cold temperatures, but I have found on really cold nights that they keep warmer if they can move/walk around rather than standing in a loose box all night. This seems especially true with Zac, my paint horse, he is around 24 years old and is quite stiff in his pelvis so keeping moving is much better for him.
- I keep a chicken feeder filled up with layers pellets under a small weather shelter at all times. The chickens also get two poultry corn feeds a day, and an extra feed of grain at night just before roosting. My theory is that this keeps them a bit warmer when they are roosting!
- We have a automatic pop hole opener on our chicken house, which is great, but sometimes if there is a lot of snow I dig small paths for the chickens to go from their house, to the water, to the feeder etc. A sprinkling of hay outside their door can help them jump down, they don't seem to like the initial shock of going onto cold snow. We just rake it up again once the hay has gone.
A list of simple things, but they mean I can look after my animals, even when it does feel like we're in a freezer outside.