I wanted to share a topic with you that I ruminate on ALL…. THE…. TIME. In fact, I often lose sleep over this, because I love the animals I’m honored to share my life with and I want them to always be comfortable.
Winter and Cold. Brrrrr!!!!
For the first several years that I was rescuing animals, I would often lay awake at night during winter wondering if everyone was ok. I was worried because it was cold outside for me, and I was nervous that my animal family members weren’t comfortable. One night (this was back in the early days) I even went out with a sleeping bag and slept in the barn with my three first goats. I woke up in the middle of the night cold, with goat poop on me, and I swear the goats had a very funny look on their face that said “mom, we got this. go back to bed.” Needless to say that was a one time experience.
Anyway, I’m guessing some of you share my concern and want to make sure your animals are happy healthy and cozy during the winter. Here in California, we are fortunate not to have the deal with ice storms, blizzards, and feet of snow. But it’s still cold, so let’s talk about how to put our minds at ease, and help our family members that need it stay cozy.
The fact is, animals have much thicker skin than we do, and they have fur and feathers. They are insulated in a way that we humans aren’t. Our pigs graze in the rain when it’s 42, our ducks run into 36 degree ponds in the morning when I let them out, and our goats sleep under the stars by choice when it’s freezing! They have their own coats that they wear every day! And we need to allow them to grow and use their coats. Much like with horses, putting sweaters or coats on them actually prevents them from growing their undercoats (cashmere, down, etc.) that will protect them in winter. This cashmere, in the case of goats, helps keep them warm when temperatures drop. I asked one of our vets about temperatures and goats, and he said that most ruminants are very comfortable around 49 degrees F, and start to get heat stress around 70! So what is an enjoyable summer for us can actually stress out our animal friends. They love it cold! That being said, there are always going to be those animals that need a little extra help in the winter; a mother giving birth in 10 degree weather, someone who is sick or recovering from surgery, a newborn kid lamb or chick, or an older guy or gal that needs help regulating their body temperature. And you can always consult your vet, or call us, if you need help with making that call.
I’ve also visited many East Coast sanctuaries to whom I have supported and volunteered at over the years. They do not heat their barns except for the bird barns in severe storms. Their ruminants and pigs and horses do just fine, and it is far colder there than here in California. Whew! So good to know. Here are some great articles on how non-human animals are far more prepared to deal with cold than we are. These links are from a website called Thrifty Homesteader. While here at Goatlandia we don’t condone breeding, milking for human use, or eating animals, the creator of this website and blog has covered some topics quite eloquently. I hope you find them useful.