Winter is my least favorite season on the farm (actually it’s my least favorite season for anything!) A number of things have to change and be done to prepare for the snow and cold for the animals. I’ve gone through several winters with the goats now and feel like I have that dialed in pretty well. It’s a first for me with the rabbits and I continue to learn and make adjustments.
I lose some of the conveniences, like the running water faucet we installed in the barnyard last year. I switch over to a heated bucket for the goats and each of the rabbits and bring water out from the house twice a day. Fresh water is very important for all of them.
Not much else changes for the goats. They’ll huddle up more in the barn or on the porch together. They go out in the snow and are much more open to that vs. rain, which they typically hate. The big change I notice with them is their coat. The cold spurs on the growth of their fleece very quickly, with my spring shearing typically being more productive than in the fall. The cold doesn’t bother them once their coats begin to grow in.
The rabbits on the other hand required a number of changes. Angora rabbits tolerate the cold much better than the heat and with a few winter tweaks to their environment, they are quite happy. We made little wooden boxes, a hutch within a hutch, to keep them cozy. And I provide bedding of hay within, although I should really switch to straw so their bedding lasts a little longer, they keep eating it. And I have heat lamps in front of their wooden hutch and turn those on anytime it’s 10 degrees or below.
As you can see, my rabbit yard is built into a corner of the barnyard and is generally well protected. I added extra canvas to close off one side. But the big improvement, completed yesterday, was truly closing off a portion (8′ x 8′) of the yard. Rabbits need exercise and normally enjoy time out in the large exercise yard almost daily. I originally bought some baby gates and was going to bring them into our kitchen to run around for exercise during bad weather. Aside from the pain this was going to be, I realized that it would be unhealthy for the rabbits, due to the constant changes in temperature.
So now I have a convenient, outdoor exercise area that I’ll be able to use even when there is snow on the ground outside. And this got finished just in the knick of time given the storm that rolled in overnight. It’s built in a way that still allows a lot of light through during the day and is semi-temporary, easily brought down and put back up for next winter. Lily was the first to try it out, and she approves 🙂 All thanks to my handy husband!