Given that this is our second several-day cold snap this winter, we should’ve prepared a bit better this time. Since we don’t have crops in the ground, though, really the big issue is keeping the livestock watered and warm.
The pigs, goats/sheep, poultry, and rabbits are all in three-sided barns with dirt floors. Normally we like this: fresh air is good for the critters, and having them on dirt is better for their bodies than concrete; plus the pigs really like to be able to root around. But the pigs sleep directly on the ground, so our first step in preparing for freezing weather is to bring each group of pigs a bale or two of hay to nest in. They all sleep in a warm pile anyway, but they like the added insulation from the cold ground.
The sheep and goats have their winter coats on and don’t seem to mind the cold, though we do give them some extra calories in the form of alfalfa pellets when it’s very cold. (We did lose a lamb in the last cold snap, but she was already very sick with worms.)
The chickens and turkeys also seem more or less indifferent to the cold. They go out and stand in the snow on one foot, alternating feet every few minutes. The geese are pretty mad that their bathing puddles are all frozen over, but then the geese are pretty mad about everything, so we don’t worry about them too much.
The cows are also in the barn, though theirs is not the same three-sided arrangement, but a large open barn with really just one wall, and the rest is open-air. They are somewhat protected by the large haystack, and they also have their winter coats on and the ability to huddle up, so they don’t seem to care about the cold either.
Watering everybody is another story. We try to keep the hoses drained, but don’t always succeed, so we often have to haul water in 5-gallon buckets from one end of the farm to the other. We use a super-handy garden cart that can hold seven buckets. But this cold snap, even our spigots froze, so we had no running water anywhere on the farm (including in the trailer we live in). Thankfully our neighbors at Tahoma Farm had running water, and they let us come and fill up our big white coolers that we use for making meat deliveries, so we were able to water everyone from those. They are insulated enough that water left in them overnight doesn’t freeze, which is convenient.
The rabbits’ waterers freeze solid overnight, so we bring them in and immerse them (waterers, not rabbits) in a big stockpot on the stove until they thaw. Then we fill them up with warm water and put them back out until they start to get slushy again. Next time we’ll plan to have twice as many waterers as cages, so we can have one set of waterers inside thawing while another set with warm water is outside.
Today we got the hoses and the spigots thawed enough for us to fill up our coolers ourselves, plus a few backup containers which we stored in the shop. And we made a checklist that includes all this prep, so we’ll do better next time.