Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cold weather livestock care: Outside? Inside?

We are having one of those weird days when the high temperature for today already happened and it's only going to get colder. Where are my barnyard animals? Outside.

Ducks have zero hoots about the snow. Snow? What snow?

One of the hard things about farming in winter is trying to figure out what is best for the livestock. The only "right" answer is... do what is best for your farm and your animals.

Here is how we break it down:
* How cold is it really? Is this a pattern of sustained cold or is this a one day event?
* What is the windchill?
* Is it sunny?
* Is anyone vulnerable? Who is most valuable and where are they?

Our valuable and vulnerable people are  in the garage locked up. Our barncats can just sit inside and while away the days under their heat lamp - there is no good reason for them to be outside. The motley crew of limpy and lame poultry can just hang out in there also. They have everything they need and do not need to be targets of attack by the rest of the chicken gang. The least amount of stress the better for them. If we had babies or meat chickens they would be locked in the garage also. Right now this is the only place where we have a heat lamp - the rest of the buildings are doing OK holding in the heat.

This turkey hen is soaking up the rays.

We've been doing a lot of shuffling around. Fortuantely most of our poultry are pretty cagey. They will stay in the sunshine and out of the wind. Mostly they are staying in the hen house - which faces the sun all day. There is kind of a slow motion shoving match to see who gets to stand in the sunshine. Some of the hens will brave the snow covered ground and hop over to the goat house - that door is standing open also so everyone can be out of the wind, on the deeply packed litter, and in the sunshine. The goats are in there too doing the same thing.

I have one ridiculous hen tho. She keeps ending up over by the garage. We had to chase her down last nite to make sure she got in the hen house. These are the ones you worry about finding outside, covered in snow the next morning. 


The goats are kind of a tough call. The Turkey House is the best nighttime spot for them but not a great daytime place. The doors face away from the sun so basically they are in a refrigerator all day. They will be happier in the sunshine, fresh air, and where they can move around. It isn't helping that Nibbles is in a raging heat and wants to fight everyone. So having them all outside is the better call for now.

The only ones we don't worry about are the ducks and geese. The Duck Garage gets the most sunshine and is the warmest. The ducks tend to hang out in the out-of-the-wind spot and soak up the rays, toddle around near their water bucket, and just keep to themselves.

I really don't worry about the geese. If your feathers are used for products meant for arctic exploration then I figure you are just fine. The only time when we keep them in is when it's not safe for anyone else - then they can just stay inside also. Mostly this is because it's easier to manage the dogs on days like this - we let the dogs roam around by themselves more and then we don't have to supervise them around loose poultry.

We make sure, tho, that the ducks and geese always have somewhere dry to stand. They will splash around in the water just fine but we want to ensure they can stay dry at night.

We also consider how long everyone has been cooped up. We had two days in a row when everyone was stuck inside. That's about the limit - after that everyone gets a little nutty and we need to open the doors.

I'm always amazed how there seems to be a tentative peace between warring poultry factions on inside days. Those who would normally be fighting outside on a normal day sit placidly next to each other during their days of incarceration. Of course, as soon as the doors are open it's a free for all.

Today is a day that is "iffy" but since tomorrow is going to be so cold I'm counting on today to get everyone solar powered, warmed up, get some fresh air, and ready to knuckle down and be inside all day tomorrow. If the clouds roll in then I'll start herding the troops inside. But for now everyone is enjoying the sun.

As for me - I'll be here beside the fire all day.

Happy Friday everyone! Do you have your barn doors open? Or is everyone cooped up?

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