Weather Planning for Goats and Chickens

While most urban farm animals are fairly low-maintenance, special care needs to be given as the weather turns colder. Along with more frigid temps, fall and winter bring snow, ice, sleet, winter rains, and potential blustery weather — so how can you be sure your beloved urban farm animals are safe and healthy? Here are some basic cold-weather tips for each urban farm animal, but please do additional research for more specific recommendations either for your area or for the type or breed of animal that you have.

Cold Weather Tips for your Homestead Animals

CHICKENS: Start by making sure that the chicken breeds you have or plan to have are appropriate for your area — some chicken breeds are more suitable for warm weather, while others fare better when the weather turns cold. If you live in an area that gets regular snow and freezing temperatures, your chicken breeds should be the type that can handle it. From there, be sure your chicken coop is clean and draft-free; the fall is the perfect time for a thorough clean-out. While chickens can handle colder weather, what will do them in very quickly is a combination of cold and wet, so make sure the floor of your coop drains well and doesn’t stay wet. An adequate number of roosting rods is important, too, for your girls to stay up high when necessary. Keep fresh water on hand at all times, and use a little bit of petroleum jelly on their waddles and combs to prevent frostbite. And, contrary to popular opinion, it’s really not necessary to have a heat lamp in your coop — in fact, these lamps are a source of many fires.


Ducks in the snow
Chicken in a sweater next to a small snowman

DUCKS: Duck care in cold weather is very similar to chicken care, with a couple exceptions. While ducks don’t at all mind rain, they don’t love sleet and snow, so be sure to have coop space for them that is dry, clean and secure. Access to fresh water is imperative, of course, but they also still need adequate water for bathing — stock tanks or kiddie wading pools are perfect for this. To keep the water from freezing, either use a heater or empty the water at night and refill in the morning. Also, if you position your tanks or pools in a sunny area, that will help to harness the sun’s rays in the cold.

GOATS: As with chickens and ducks, make sure you have adequate dry and secure cover for your goats as the weather turns cold; they need a place to sleep and escape from the nasty weather. Double-check that all of your goats are up to date on their vaccinations, worming, and hoof-trimming, and have plenty of minerals on hand for them to free-range feed. Feeding areas should be covered so that their hay and feed doesn’t get wet. Be prepared to break up ice in their water, or add hot water to the icy water to bring the temperature up — my goats are picky, and they will not drink water with ice on the surface or eat hay that is wet. Consider giving them a bit of alfalfa or grain at night — this allows their rumens to work overnight, keeping them warmer.

Goat behind a fence
Cold weather pig in the snow

PIGS: Pigs can catch pneumonia in the cold months, so it’s imperative to have a clean, dry, and draft-free place for them to take cover. Their bedding should be clean and dry (hay or straw works well), be sure their food is also dry and that they have access to fresh water. Be aware of when you are feeding your pigs — if you tend to feed them when it’s dark outside (early morning or later in the evening), the lack of light can impact their health and sleep patterns. A good light in the feeding area is a great idea. If you live in a very cold area, make sure the pig breeds you have or are planning to have are well suited for that climate, as some are hardier than others.


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Goats standing in the snow.
A chicken in the snow wearing a sweater

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