It’s been a good couple of weekends to yank frozen farm tools that were stuck in ice and shovel thawed out manure from stalls and coops. This kind of warm cold whiplash can be hard on poultry. Respiratory issues can come of thickly fogged mornings to crisp thin air only a day later.
Our youngest and our thinnest goats get coats when it’s bitterly cold out which are removed once the temp is above freezing at night again. It’s not a good idea of leave them on all the time, especially in the first few weeks of real winter weather. Acclimating to the coat can deter the growth good thick, fluffy natural coats.
Make sure your coop is well ventilated. I leave the door open when it’s real warm (very secure perimeter!) so they can let themselves out early and then won’t build up on their combs and waddles while roosting. When it’s windy and cold like most Maine nights in Winter time they’re shut up tight.
Our goats have open doors all the time. There is a blanket draped over a doorway to reduce draft. Their hay manger and water bucket is outdoors. Take care to bust out the ice from the night before. Even if it’s warm in the morning the ice may have skimmed the top mid night.
Goats won’t push through even a thin layer of ice to tale a drink. When it’s cold they can become easily hydrated. This is hard particularly on goats who are pregnant and even more on goats in milk. Smooth pregnancies rely on good husbandry—and that includes hydration.
I keep a 5-gallon bucket full and replace it twice daily. Larger amounts of water are slower to freeze, so even if they won’t drink five gallons it’s best to bring more than they need. Same with chickens. When I head out with water I have one jug full of hot water—an old milk jug.
I keep hot water on hand in the barnyard for winter rounds to pour over the sides of the bucket to loosen any ice stuck in it. A quick knock on the bottom upside down should let it loose. Soon you’ll have a bunch of round igloo blocks!
Some folks put bag balm on rooster combs and waddles to fight frostbite on a daily basis. That’s just ridiculous and a waste of time. I mean, if you’re into bonding with your roosters over a tin of bag balm that’s cool.
I have only come across a case of serious frostbite once. It was caused by a rooster drinking from a bucket who had a very long waddle (polish). After a long cold snap he healed up with bag balm treatment once daily for the duration of the below zero at night streak. I took the water away when I shut the coop and put it back in the morning.