Getting Your Critters and Coop Winter Ready!
Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Winter came so quickly this year! It was 65 and sunny then next day its 35 and flurrying. Luckily it doesn't take much to get in gear for winter! We have all kinds of critters here on our farm and they are in several different areas. Obviously the changes you make will very depending on your set up. Make sure your animals are in top health going into the winter. Make sure they have been wormed and have no mites or lice.
Let's talk water,
All of our animals use larger black rubber bowls for water year round. You flip them over and the ice pops right out during the winter. We do not use any heated water bowls or nipple waterers. We never put water in our coops since humidity is a big no no. Water is very important during the winter even tho its cold out so make sure you're giving fresh water daily.
Let's start with the birds!! We have several breeds of chickens, guineas, quail, turkeys, peafowl, and chukar.
All of our chickens, guineas, turkeys, and peafowl are out during the day and have coops or a house they go in at night. Our quail and chukars have large hutches with a wire floor and open wire fronts where the doors are.
For the hutches we simply close off most of the front. the doors are framed with wire in the middle and we cut a piece of wood that simply fits in the hole. Easy peasy! the bottom remains open to give good ventilation and kept he birds clean. We use wood chips to keep the ground mud free around them and make it easier to clean out underneath as well.
I always remind people, before we had power lots of people had chickens. You won't find anyone who had a fireplace or a wood stove in the coop back in the day. Heating your coop is dangerous and actually hurtful to the chickens. Imagine you were inside snuggled up by the wood stove then went outside without adding any extra clothes. BURRRRR!!!!
If its going to be super cold you can also feed them before the go in for bed! the digestion will help to keep them warm!
There are 3 main killers for the winter.
2. Humidity and Frostbite
It's important for all animals not just the birds to have a place they can go to get out of the wind. Here we are on the foot of the mountain and its so windy all the time. Cold wind is brutal. Make sure they have access to go in there house or an area that has a windbreak they can use during the day. Chickens molt in the fall and basically put on a down jacket for the winter. You can help them maintain and keep it nice by adding black oil sunflower seeds to your feed. It's important to have a nice roost. At night they will fluff up and squat down to cover their feet.
Frostbite is your biggest challenge during the winter. Humidity and moisture are the enemy when it comes to frostbite. When people think of winter they immediately think to make their coop airtight. DO NOT DO THIS! You actually want a well ventilated coop. Frostbite when temps are single digits is almost impossible to prevent entirely. This is because chickens create a ton of moisture just by breathing and pooping. A chickens poo is about 80-85% moisture. you want to make sure that moisture is able to escape from the coop. Make sure you are cleaning your bedding frequently or turning frequently if you deep litter. Providing an are for your birds to dust themselves will also help to keep them dry and warm!
Light is not something everyone needs to worry about and is a topic not everyone agrees on. During the winter days are shorter. A hens laying is regulated by the endocrine system which is stimulated by light. We are a working farm so we need our animals to contribute year round. to help with this we provide supplemental light in our coops. we use an LED bulb on a timer to make sure they are getting about 14 hours of light each day. This also helps coax our tom turkeys into the coop when there is snow and the nights are brighter.
Let's talk pigs!!
We have several breed of pigs here. Kunekune, Pot Belly, and Juliana.
No matter what breed your pig is they are going to destroy the area they are in during the winter. The reality is all pigs root a little, even Kunekune. The rain and snow combined with the freeze and thaw during winter is hard on any pen. Add in the weight of the pig like a kunekune and its a muddy mess!!!! Keeping this in mind we choose
an area to section off each winter that we want to reseed in the spring. The area they can go too will come back early spring and you can seed the part that is a muddy mess. It's a win win!
We use calf hutches for our pigs because they are easy to move around. When winter comes we choose a spot that will not hold water to out the house and we add a floor. nothing fancy just some boards screwed together them we add a few bales of straw. You want the to be able to burry themselves in it. the beautiful ting about adding the floor is the straw stays dry and lasts all winter long! You will have to add to it, but you won't have to replace it all! We also put a big thick blanket over the majority of the door to block wind. This year I am hoping to add those rubber strips you see at the grocery store. We also add black sunflower seeds to the feed for a nice thick coat!
What about the Goats?
For us not much changes as far as the goats. The main changes for them is they get put. into a wintering pen and they get hay and feed.
During the spring and summer our goats go in our big main pen thats is about 2 acres. As the grass and plants die out or go dormant for winter the goats will begin to eat the bark off of the trees. This is why we move them into a wintering pen with no trees.
We tie our goats out around our property to help maintain areas we don't want to weed wack or can't mow spring through fall. It keeps our yard maintained and lets our pen catch up and not get rundown. During the winter months we provide constant hay and a small amount of grain on cold nights.
They have a wooden house they share with no floor. The house gets cleaned out periodically and new straw is added. This is super important for the goats. Unlike pigs the goats will pee and poo in their house. We clean out and top off their house year round so no change there.
If there is anything I missed don't hesitate to shoot me a message and ask!