Special feeding for cold weather
We try to prevent illness before it happens. This isn’t a new idea, it’s just one that bears repeating. In the winter, and especially when the temperature gets below freezing, I take extra care to make sure everyone is having their needs met. Here's how we supplement their diets during times of cold weather:
Chickens The chickens probably make out the best when it’s cold. If it’s just a little cold I simply take hot water down to mix in their water, making sure none of it is frozen. If it’s just cold I take them warm water with molasses in it. If it’s really cold I make them oatmeal, cover it in molasses and then fill it full of warm water, to make an oatmeal molasses soup. I’ve read that you can feed chickens dry oatmeal but I always cook it for them.
Sheep Our sheep are badass. They stand outside in the rain and sleep under the stars. Although they have a beautiful shelter very rarely do they actually hang out in it. In fact, if their mineral block and feeder didn't draw them over to it I doubt they would spend any time in it. I have several water buckets in their area which I prefer doing over one large bucket because it forces me to fill it more often ensuring they always have access to clean and fresh water. When this water does freeze I haul steaming hot buckets of water outside and add it to their cold water. Sheep don't like hot water, but they do need the water to be drinkable so my hot water melts it perfectly. We also make sure that they have plenty of hay, because they are ruminants, and the simple act of eating causes rumination and...yep, heats their bodies from the inside out.
Pigs These pigs have it made. When they're cold they either stand under the sheep or burrow into the deep bedding in the shelter. Because they share water with the sheep they also benefit from the de-iced buckets.
Goats The goats are not as “tough” as the sheep, mainly because they don’t have those thick full coats but also because I think they're big ol' babies. The sheep will stand in the pouring rain without a care in the world but at the slightest hint of rain the goats scream out in wicked witch of the west despair. In order to make sure they drink enough water (year round) we add strawberry lemonade mix to their water (a trick we learned from the incredible Donna at Edelweiss Acres). Or, if we have some leftover from ourselves, we add Gatorade (which the handsome man and I believe is the cure all for all types of ailments in our own bodies). The extra sugar in the water helps keep it from freezing (which isn’t really a problem since the goats sleep in the barn) and, maybe more importantly, makes them drink more water. Because Bjorn and Toto are both wethers (neutered male goats) they are prone to urinary calculi which is mainly caused by improper feeding but water consumption is also a factor. You can read more about it here >> Just like the sheep, the goats always have plenty of hay available, too.
Bunnies Just like the sheep, the bunnies are pretty tough. I do make sure they have plenty of hay to snuggle in and chew on and if their water is frozen I replace it, but I continue to supplement with fresh veggies and fruits of the cold variety. I think they like it better that way.