Winters can be tough on the homestead. Whether you have a small backyard farm or a large ranch, there are a few simple steps to winterize farm animals before the temperatures drop.
We recently had baby goat triplets, and although they are precious and full of joy, their pen will require some extra care in the winter months. Here are six steps we are taking to ensure the goats and chickens stay happy and healthy this winter.
1. Deep Clean
The chicken coop and goat pen should be deep cleaned a few times a year. This is a messy, but necessary job. Remove bedding and hay with a shovel and add it to your compost pile. Your spring gardens will flourish. If you have access, this is a perfect time of year to power wash the floor and walls. Check the barn and coop structures for drafts.
Most homesteaders open up the screens during the warmer months for airflow, so now is the time to make sure they are closed by adding wind barriers. Keep some ventilation open to allow your animals to stay dry. An air tight chicken coop may invite sickness, so ensure there is a small opening at the roof line. We love to eat our farm fresh eggs daily. Winterize farm animals by keeping a clean coop will ensure an enjoyable and tasty breakfast through the winter months.
2. Freshen Up
After your coop and goat pen are clean and dry, there are a few steps to keeping it sanitary through the long winter. We are huge advocates of natural essential oil sprays to keep the mites and infestations down. Although the first freeze will take care of some issues, an essential oil spray on surfaces is a good idea.
In a glass spray bottle, add 5-10 drops of lemon, rosemary and peppermint essential oils. Fill the rest of the bottle with water, shake and spray it on every surface. Once that mixture has been sprayed and dried, we add a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth to the floor and nesting boxes. This is a naturally occurring crushed fine white rock powder that does wonders for the healthy environment in your coop and animal pens. We also use this powder under our bee hives to prevent beetles from attacking our bees.
Once your structures are clean, it’s time to add your fresh bedding of straw or pine shavings. A rosemary herb satchel is the final touch for our nesting boxes. Rosemary is an insect repellant and deodorizer. Plus, it helps with respiratory health. Your chickens and goats will also enjoy it as a snack.
3. Heated Water
If you live in a colder climate, now is the time to break out the heated watering system to winterize farm animals. There are many on the market and solar options to plug into as well. Give each watering system a good scrub down and check that the heat unit is working.
Occasionally, we will add a few drops of garlic oil to the chicken water to maintain the bird’s PH balance and prevent infestations. Don’t add too much or they will stop laying. I learned that the hard way. Check your water and refill it daily. Access to fresh water is a must for your chickens and goats.
Wipe down your lights and replace the bulbs. If you don’t have electricity, you can install a small solar panel from your hardware store. A good lighting system will keep your chickens laying through the colder months. If you are in a climate where the temperatures are extreme, you could add a heat bulb. Chickens are tough in cold weather. But they are susceptible to frost bite.
Most experts agree that the goats do not need a heat lamp because of their under coat of fur. I’m a softie and always keep a heat lamp in the baby goat pen. On cold nights, I’ll admit to turning on the lamps for the adults as well. I’ve been known to put my baby goats in fleece pajamas too. Of course, this is not needed, but it’s so much fun. We keep a few extra light bulbs on hand and place the heat lamps in a secure location away from the hay to prevent fires. Install your light several feet from any bedding or wall.
5. Predator Proof
In our region, we continue to have coyotes and other predators stalk our flock and herd. They are beautiful and bold, but not welcome on your property. These hangry predators would love your animal for their next meal. Prevention is key. The lighting and clean fresh scents are predator deterrents. Many homesteaders have a guardian dog, donkey or llama to protect their livestock. We also recently installed a timer door on the chicken coop that is open dawn till dusk. This keeps the chickens secure during the evening hours when most predators attack.
6. Festive Décor
Once the hard work of winterizing your homestead is done, it can be fun to add simple winter décor to your chicken coop or barn. If it puts a smile on your face, it will be easier for you to throw on your Carhartts and boots and go out to tend your precious animals.
Both chickens and goats like to nibble on everything, so make sure your decorations are healthy for them. Fresh greenery is a great choice, but don’t expect it to last long. They will appreciate the treats and love you even more than they already do.
Taking a few extra precautions to winterize farm animals will ensure you have an enjoyable and healthy season on your homestead. As you are snuggled up watching your favorite Hallmark movie inside by the fire, you can rest assured that your flock and herd is nestled in and cozy as well.
Lana lives with her husband and kids on a small farmstead in Kansas City, where they raise goats, chickens & bees. They are fixing up their 120 year old farmhouse one room at a time. Lana is a University Business Professor, and she enjoys local Kansas City BBQ any chance she gets. Learn more about Lana at LanaStenner.com.