Written By: Kathleen Clinton, Metroparks C.I.G. Animal Care Specialist
As winter approaches at Wolcott Metropark Farm Center we must prepare for the comfort and safety of our farm animals. Although you might think that keeping them inside and warm is the best for them, you are mistaken.
Farm animals need shelter but not an airtight structure. A slightly drafty barn will allow proper ventilation to keep our livestock healthy. The animals body heat in an airtight barn can cause the barn to become too hot in the winter. Humidity caused by water produced from both urination and breathing will create the perfect breeding ground for mold and/or bacteria. This is harmful to not just the animals, but their human caregivers.
Have you ever seen a cow, sheep or a horse covered in snow seemingly without a care in the world? They are not cold, the ice or snow layer on them is keeping them warm. There is a space between the snow or ice and the skin that traps in heat keeping them warm. Providing a lean-to or other structure out of the elements is all that they need, unless there is severe weather.
Chickens and other birds do need to be kept in areas that will keep them warm. They are susceptible to frostbite on their feet and waddles. A fairly airtight area is best but be sure to open doors or windows for ventilation a few times a day. A good layer of straw or shavings on the ground in the coop along with perches is the way to go. When your chickens are comfortable with extra winter lighting, they will be more likely to continue laying eggs.
The diet of the farm animals is important as well during the cold months. Did you know that animals drink more during the winter than the summer? The winter air is much dryer, much less moisture to keep animals hydrated, therefore more water consumption. We need to make sure that all the animal’s water is kept full and thawed. Warm water is best.
Animals shiver to stay warm or maintain body heat. When the animals shiver, they burn fat and burn up their feed. To meet their bodies needs we increase feed and sometimes change feed to one that contains a higher protein or fat content during colder weather.
Taking precautions and being prepared will keep the Wolcott Mill Metropark Farm Center residents happy and healthy, so bring on the snow!