Freezing Temperatures and Extreme Weather on The Farm

Winter months and freezing temperatures provide new winter chores on the farm along with time for new skills like woodworking, and for garden planning and ordering seeds for sale.

| January/February 2014

  • A couple of hens venture out of the warm coop into a snow-covered landscape.
    Photo By Fotolia/chelle129
  • Shetland Ponies easily shed the cold, but a shelter is a welcome respite from the weather.
    Photo By iStockphoto/lagereek
  • While surveying his domain, a billy goat might just be using a round bale as a windbreak.
    Photo By iStockphoto/Copit
  • Beulah the West Virginia Goat has shelter to fall back on.
    Photo By iStockphoto/Rebekah Blocher
  • Gritty in the snow.
    Illustration By Brad Anderson

For many homesteaders, it seems there is only a short reprieve from soaring summer temperatures and long hours in the garden until winter stalks the home place. The battles being fought against bugs, humidity and heat turn into new ones: those against freezing temperatures and shorter daytime hours. While most of us know better than to be surprised by the stark change in daily routines, there is always a winter chore or two that seems to trip us up, requiring more time and energy than it should.

Knowledge and planning are the best bets against Old Man Winter and his tricks. And, since the cold snap will come every year, it’s best to prepare months in advance with our surefire tips for winning the war against common — but annoying — winter dilemmas. Here are some of the more grievous — and curable — seasonal issues, and a common-sense approach for fighting back.

Foul odors in animal outbuildings

On days when the already-freezing temperatures are extremely low, the moisture and mess that can become trapped in bedding layers may not be as noticeable. If your chicken coop or barn is well-insulated and kept at reasonable temps, however, the wet, muddy conditions can make things less than fresh for your animal friends. Many have turned to a deep-bed style waste management — for chickens, in particular.

Angela England, author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less), encourages this practice and recommends deep layers of bedding, with fresh bedding continually added to the top — which allows composting naturally underneath.

If you have an enclosed chicken coop with hard floors, expect to factor in some extra time for cleaning chores. “The bedding will need to be refreshed more often — especially under the roost areas,” England says.

In addition to feathered fowl, this method works well for goats and sheep. By adding thick layers of straw continually during the winter months, it’s possible to keep things cozy and sanitary for your animals. England adds that the wet seasons may require more drastic action to improve drainage of moisture. She’s partial to putting down wooden pallets filled with gravel between the slats, then covering that with thick layers of straw bedding. This method keeps the animals up off the floor and away from their own waste until spring.

12/18/2013 4:57:54 PM

I want some global warming! Coldest winter so far in years.

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