Keeping animals safe outside in frigid temperatures

Dated: January 18 2024

Views: 200

This week has been brutal. With temperatures at or below zero and schools calling off so the kids wearing shorts and t-shirts don't freeze, it's certainly been an adjustment. Yet, what about our outdoor animals? My chickens haven't barely left their house for a few days. Caring for outdoor animals in below-zero temperatures is crucial to ensure their well-being. Here are some general tips:

Provide Shelter: Ensure that animals have access to a dry and windproof shelter. This could be a sturdy doghouse, barn, or insulated shelter appropriate for the species.

Insulation: Add extra bedding or insulation inside the shelter. Straw or hay is commonly used for animals like dogs, cats, and outdoor livestock. We shred a lot of files and papers here in the office, so I now also use shredded paper, which is an excellent insulator.

Water Supply: Ensure a constant supply of fresh, unfrozen water. Use heated water bowls or check water sources regularly to prevent freezing. I have this heated bowl ( and it works great. It sure beats going out there repeatedly to add more water. Animals will rarely eat snow for water, so fresh, unfrozen water is critical for survival.

Balanced Nutrition: Increase the animals' food intake during cold weather, as they burn more calories to stay warm. For chickens and ducks, cracked corn is an excellent addition to help them as they burn extra calories staying warm. Birds love suet and it's a great way to provide extra to help on the coldest days. My bird feeders are regularly supplied this type of suet ( which brings in downy and red-headed woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, finches, sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, juncos, doves, and more.

Grooming: Keep fur and feathers clean and dry. Wet fur loses its insulating properties, making animals more susceptible to the cold. Birds and ducks have naturally repellent feathers, but chickens do not.

Check Paws and Hooves: Ice and snow can accumulate between paw pads or hooves. Regularly check and remove ice to prevent discomfort or injury. Make sure you wipe feet off of dogs when they come in from outside to help prevent this.

Windbreaks: Use windbreaks like tarps or temporary barriers to shield animals from strong winds. Similarly, putting structures next to shrubs and/or evergreens can greatly reduce sheer wind exposure. Covering plants with burlap like this can really double for protection (

Heating Devices: For larger animals in barns or enclosures, consider safe heating options. Avoid heat lamps which can scorch or burn animals and/or bedding which can catch fire.

Remember that different species have unique needs, so tailor your care approach accordingly. Regular monitoring and adjustments to your care routine based on weather conditions are essential. Some animals are better suited for outdoor living in the winter. Domestic dogs and cats are NOT!

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Andy Hargreaves

#1 Agent Nationally for Coldwell Banker for # of homes sold in 2015 Top 5 Nationally in Sales for Coldwell Banker 2011-2015 #1 Coldwell Banker Agent in Michigan for homes sold in 2011-2016 Top 10 Team....

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