Frozen doors…frozen water…frozen food containers and maybe frozen animals are all to true a possibility during the sub-zero temperatures sometimes experienced on up-state New York farms. There is much you can do to overcome many of the trials and tribulations of winter, but you better prepare in the comfort of fall or you will suffer along with your animals during a time of great stress and pandemonium, if tragedy strikes and you are not ready…… AND BELIEVE ME…you can never be too ready for old man winter’s savage attacks on man or beast.
We started to seriously winterize, as most of you followers know, in the late stages of Autumn when fall was just gaining it’s grip. We did many little things previous to this….during the summer as we were building the barn, making provisions for future winterizing features, like installing hinged ventilation louvers on the underside of the outside porches and so on, but the real winterizing began when the cold winds of fall started to remind you of winter’s approach every time you went outside.
Some of the things we did, were to install board and batten knee board sections around all the outside runs. This served to stop predator interest in trying to gain access to the runs, thus breeching the safety of the fowl residing inside. We placed 2b stone all around the perimeter of the runs and then crusher stone dust over that, to discourage digging under the walls. We installed heavy gauge, clear, vinyl furniture cover material over the top wired area to stop the winter winds, so the fowl could be out all winter long to peck and scratch in the dirt runs. The vinyl can easily be removed and stored in the spring, to allow free flow of air all summer long again.
We tried to diminish frozen drinking water in several ways…… one being to install heated buckets…… on to the old hen house, the duck house and one to the barn chicken house section. We also have large, flat, round water pans, which still freeze, but are easy to dump. The chickens love to peck at the ice and gain the benefit of water that way too. Each morning I dump what is left in the pans and refill them, but seldom is there any ice chunks to be found anywhere the next morning, so they love to eat the ice blocks left over. Next we installed heat lamps which heat the box nests and provide a roosting place at night, on the entry rail in front of the nesting boxes. We also pointed a heat lamp at the bleacher style roosting rails on the other side of the room. We use a lot of wood chips to both insulate the floor and nesting boxes, to provide a dry warm atmosphere for the chickens and the ducks. For the ducks, Keep your heated bucket and food in the outside run area. They will eat and slop in the water (as ducks do) out there and your duck house remains clean, dry and comfy for all of them.
The bunnies are easy…… a big pile of hay in the pen, a water bottle with a heat lamp suspended directly above to keep it from freezing, which also provides a warm spot for bunny to sit too. Install through the cage feeders with the metal lid to refill them and you’re all set with the bunnies.
In this weather the turkeys live with the chickens. The Guinea fowl live with the chickens year round, so the turkeys don’t mind the company when it’s really cold out there.
We had freeze proof water hydrants installed in the fall so we would have water in the barn and at the old chicken/duck house all winter long and I’ll tell you…..like Vick said…..”It was worth every penny to have it done!” It is so nice to have 55 degree water available at demand and it helps, to some degree, to melt any frozen containers you find.
Seems we have it all figured out…… but even with all the preparation we made, I found a dead Barred Rock bantam hen this morning. I had suspicions she might succumb to death because I found her in the duck house (where she chose to live) yesterday, on the floor, in the frosted corner of the room. I thought at that time, she was dead, but she was fluffed and sleeping. I picked her up and moved her to the old hen house and placed her on the bleacher roost, very near the heat lamp and she seemed pleased…….ruffled and re-fluffed her feathers and settled into a big feathered ball. I thought at that time, she was either sick and would die, or was chased away from the heat lamp by the ducks, which they will readily do……… the selfish little devils. Well…… despite my endeavors to help her, she went to the floor under the nesting boxes during the night and expired ………… obviously from sickness, or she would have stayed on the roost under the heat lamp.
The only bad thing about our operation here is that we still have one thing that can cause us great stress and pandemonium, and that is a power outage because of downed lines. Although we will always be subject to this occurrence…… we have discussed making preparations for installation of a watchdog generator capable of running the house lights and heat, the barn and outbuilding needs and the well pump for water. Once that contingency plan is in place, we will be able to rest assured we have done everything within our ability to be prepared and provided the best possible life for us and our animals here on the farm.