I think one of the number one questions I get asked about the farm is where do all the animals go in the winter?
Um. Nowhere. Just like you.
However, you may have noticed that winter is different than summer. Therefor, the care and keeping of livestock is different in those seasons.
For the goats, this mainly means: Hay.
During the spring/summer/early fall – the goats eat grass and leaves and weeds til their little bellies are full but in the dead of winter, none of that exists and they have to be fed hay. Which is basically dried nutritious plant. This is different than straw which is dried, stalks of plants and used for bedding because there isn’t any nutritional value in it. So I stock up on hay, which is the itchiest of farm chores unless you, like me, are perpetually covered in mosquito bites and poison ivy and then all chores between May and November are itchy.
I don’t really do anything for the rabbits. They provide their own winter coat and I just make sure they have a cozy little den to sleep in.
I don’t really do anything for the chickens either. They have shutters on their coop that get shut at night. A lot of people have a problem with their chickens not laying eggs in the winter because they aren’t getting 14 hours of daylight. Mine have never really stopped or slowed down so I don’t even think about artificial lighting in their coop.
The one “hard” thing about winter is the water freezing. Most mornings, I need to make sure the ice is cleared out of their buckets and if it’s going to be below freezing all day, I just go out at lunch time too to make sure they still have access to water.
But because I also milk the goats, there’s a bit of a process to stop milking them. The thing is, you can’t just stop and start back up again in a week. Once you stop, you stop until they have another baby. Let me explain.
I will not be milking the goats after October 20th. This is because:
- I’d like to start going on vacation.
- They need a break to just lay around and get fat off hay all winter.
- They need a break to grow a baby.
- I don’t have a need for it year round.
Some people stop milking in December. Some people never stop milking because they have different goats on different cycles. Some people don’t milk their goats at all and this isn’t an issue.
Everyone says to stop milking you just….don’t milk them but I like to make it a little easier on those udders and gradually decrease their grain so that they are gradually producing a little less milk.
And that’s that. That’s what happens in the winter. Eating hay keeps the goats warm and they can sleep in the shed if they want but most of the time you’ll find them sleeping outside, even if it’s 30 degrees outside. The chickens don’t particularly like snow so they’ll stay inside if there is snow on the ground and the rabbits seem to prefer winter far more than summer.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just realized I’m wearing a raincoat in the house and I’d like to go hang it up.