Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making it Through the Winter: A Livestock Update

Whew! It's February and now there are only a couple of months of Winter left! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
On the whole, it has been a very mild Winter, with the majority of days above freezing and very little snowfall (until last Saturday). However, 2 weeks ago, we had a deep freeze with temperatures dipping below -40c (-40f!) for nearly a week. It was a big adjustment for me and the chickens and rabbits. Last year the coldest it got was -30c, so this was slightly unexpected.
Those cold temperatures mean a lot of extra work with the animals. Even with heaters, the water for the chickens would freeze solid, so I was busy thawing and defrosting water for them. Also, eggs freeze and crack pretty quick in that weather, so I was always on the lookout. The heat lamps were turned on for both the bunnies and the chickens, although the chickens still preferred to spend time outside of the coop in the frigid sunshine. For that reason, Honeychile' has suffered some frostbite on her comb and will lose some of her points. I'm not sure there is much else we could have done about that! At night, the chickens made me contort my pregnant body into their run to catch them and throw them up into the coop at night. Something about the heat lamp at night made them avoid going to bed.
The bunnies just hunkered down in furry balls during the cold snap. I turned on a heat lamp for them, but they didn't seem to crowd under it. Their breath froze on their fur though, so I would use my hands to defrost the ice. The heated dog bowls that I got for the bunnies did a fantastic job and kept the water from freezing over, making my job easier.
I'm sure we all breathed easier when the temperature jumped right back up to above freezing. When it is -40, your boogers freeze, your eyelashes freeze together, and you can't take a deep breath without coughing. Not so pleasant. But I did have to walk into town one day because the car wouldn't start. Even a 15 minute walk feels like a life-or-death adventure. But all that is done with for now, and I am crossing my fingers that it will be the only really cold snap this Winter.
Gooseberry sitting on my lap in the warm sunshine, getting her tangles brushed out.
It is warm enough now to take off my mittens to do some of the chores.
Betty and Honeychile' enjoying the warmer weather. If you click on the picture, you can see the frostbite on Honeychile's comb.
They love a treat of scratch. It keeps them busy and happy.

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