Livestock & Pets - Preparedness - Self Reliance

How to Deal with Cold Weather on the Homestead

Help your goats deal with cold weather on the homestead with extra feed
Keep your livestock safe and healthy in cold weather!

How to Deal with Cold Weather on the Homestead

When the weather outside is frightful and the fire inside is delightful, it’s tempting to stay warm rather than attend to your outdoor chores. Although some outside work can wait for warmer days or can be done before the snow flies, there are still some responsibilities that just can’t wait. Learn how to deal with cold weather on your homestead before the pipes freeze and your livestock and pets are in danger!

Learn How to Cook with a Wood Stove in case the electricity goes out.

Do Chickens Lay Eggs in the Winter? How to keep your hens laying through the winter!

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chicken in the snow

Taking Care of Your Livestock

Don’t neglect the feathered and furry members of your homestead in the winter.  Your livestock depends on you for their food, water, and bedding. Larger animals, like horses and cattle, may be able to paw through the snow for grass (make sure the snow isn’t too deep) and as long as there is a source of open water, they may be fine without a lot of attention. Make sure that they aren’t in danger of breaking through ice in their search for water and that they have shelter and feed when the winds are blowing and sleet is falling.

Poultry and smaller animals need more care than some of the larger herd animals. Make sure they have dry shelter and protection from drafts. For the most part, your chickens don’t need a heat lamp. They should do fine without supplemental heat unless temps drop into the sub-zero range. Chicks are an exception…be sure the little ones have a warm brooder. Be extremely careful when using a heat lamp because they are one of the major causes of barn fires and need to be handled with care.

All livestock need a source of drinkable water, so keep their water dishes or stock tanks free of ice with an electric or solar-powered deicer made specifically for this purpose. Also, make sure that your animals have the proper feed and bedding available to keep them healthy and dry. Keep extra grain on hand in case you’re snowed in and can’t get to the feed store. You also need to keep an eye out for hungry predators searching for easy meals in your barnyard. Protect your livestock with good fencing, a livestock guard dog, or your firearm.

Learn How to Safely Heat Your Chick Brooder

Choose the Right Livestock for Your Climate

Start out with the best livestock for your climate and you’ll have fewer problems with keeping them healthy in the winter. Some breeds do better in cold winters, such as Buckeye and Turken chickens, Narragansett turkeys, Tamworth hogs, and Belted Galloway and Highland cattle. Do your research before you start buying your livestock to prevent cold weather problems later.

Choose the Best Chicken Breeds for Cold Climates

a warm hearth is a great way to help deal with cold weather on the homestead

How to Deal with Cold Weather – Your Hearth and Home

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure that your family and home are taken care of in the cold weather. Keep extra winter clothes and gear on hand and ready to throw on at a minute’s notice. You never know when an emergency might spring up. Keep extra non-perishable food and water on hand in case of power outages or blocked roadways.

If you have a wood stove, make sure there is plenty of firewood for the winter, covered and ready to use. Keep some in a wood box in the house for nights when it is brutally cold outside. The chimney needs to be cleaned and checked every year before you start your first fire, and the ashes should be cleaned out often. A good wood stove can keep your family warm and fed, and prevent frozen pipes when the electricity is out.

Keep your paths and driveway shoveled and plowed so you can get outside and take care of your barn chores, or get out of the driveway for work or emergencies. It’s a good idea to have a couple of extra shovels in the garage so the whole family can get in on the exercise! Keep your vehicles clean of snow and ice in case you need to get to the doctor’s office or drugstore quickly.

You should always keep your gas tanks filled at least half full and make sure you have warm blankets, emergency rations, water, windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, chains, a shovel, a list of emergency phone numbers, and a bag of kitty litter (for traction) in your car or truck in case you run into problems on your drive.

help your pets deal with cold weather on the homestead ... don't leave them out unless they  are well protected from the cold

Taking Care of Pets in Winter

Make sure your pets are well cared for in cold weather. It’s best if cats and dogs can come in the house or barn during freezing temperatures to keep them safe and warm. Let’s face it, a dog house is really only suitable for cold hardy dogs like Huskies and Great Pyrenees. They might enjoy the cold weather and want to stay outside, but your pets need a warm, dry place in winter. Make sure they also have fresh, unfrozen water and some extra chow on hand to keep them healthy.

Learn How to Make a Soothing Balm for Your Pet’s Paws and How to Make Wheat-Free Dog Biscuits

Equipment on the Winter Homestead

Make sure that all essential equipment is in good running condition, fuel additives and stabilizers have been added, and snow removal equipment has had a tune-up before you get into the deep of winter. Have your snow blower and plow ready ahead of time to prevent problems when winter weather hits hard. Sharpen your chainsaw chain in case branches or trees come down. Store shovels in a cold place to prevent snow from building up on warm metal. Keep some animal-safe de-icing salt on hand for your drive and walkways. Sand may also come in handy if you have it.

Hopefully, you won’t need to shovel excessive snow loads off your roof or remove fallen trees from your driveway, but if you run into those issues, you want to be prepared with the proper equipment in good working order!

Check out these helpful tips on protecting livestock during extreme winter weather.

Stay Safe as You Deal with Cold Weather on the Homestead

I live in northern Illinois and grew up on a small farm outside of Buffalo, NY… so I grew up learning how to deal with cold weather on the homestead. Many people don’t need this advice on a regular basis so it can be deadly when a winter storm hits unexpectedly. Put safety first and keep extra supplies and gear on hand, in case things get bad…

  • Non-perishable food and extra water, blankets, and clothing
  • Matches, utility lighters, firewood, and firestarters
  • Gas-powered generator
  • Tarps, livestock blankets, safe heaters for the barn
  • Extra feed, bedding, and water tank de-icers for your livestock
  • Heated bed, heated water bowl, and insulation for dog houses for outdoor pets
  • Extra shovels, pet-safe de-icing salt, and kitty litter (new or used… your choice!) for traction
  • First aid kit, emergency flares, charged cell phone, emergency food, extra gloves, coats, hats for your car
  • Keep extra fuel on hand and keep your car’s gas tank at least half full
  • Keep plenty of candles, flashlights, and extra batteries on hand for emergencies

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Here are some safety tips in case you are without power during a winter storm…

  • Do NOT run your vehicle in the garage to stay warm due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Do NOT use a gas stove or oven to heat your home
  • Drain the pipes in your home if they are in danger of freezing
  • Set up a tent with sleeping bags and extra blankets inside the house to help stay warm
  • Check out this article about using a terra cotta pot and candle as an alternative source of heat

No matter where you live, it is important to be prepared for difficult situations during winter, tornado, or hurricane season, or when wildfires rip through your area. How do you prepare in advance for natural disasters and storms on your homestead? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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14 Comments on “How to Deal with Cold Weather on the Homestead

  1. Might want to change this, I think you meant “don’t”……..”For the most part, your chickens need a heat lamp.”

  2. love this! With 3 little ones, I can’t safely go out to the chickens enough times to rescue all the eggs before they freeze, but I am inspired to try harder. Great reminders on cold weather preparedness. I am also learning from your interview on Survival Summit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi WesternWoman,
      Thanks for stopping by! Try searching for nest cozies…I forgot where I read about them, but they might help you keep the eggs from freezing. The basic idea is to sew up a cloth bag with compartments for rice or beans. You sew each pocket shut and then the bag goes in the microwave for a minute or two. Once warmed up, you take it out and put in under the nesting material to keep the nest and eggs from freezing up as fast. I haven’t tried this, so I can’t say how long it will stay warm or whether it is worth the effort. But it might help! If you don’t have time to make one, I would think you could just take some old fabric and pour the hot rice in it (uncooked) then tie up and use that. Hope this helps!

      Thanks for listening to my interview on The Survival Summit!

  3. Great information Lisa! We do a lot of these things, but honestly I never thought to keep extra stuff in my van! It makes sense and we were stranded once that I remember so this is something I’ll work on this weekend! Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for reading my posts, Magpie Mage! I’m so happy to share what I have learned with my readers…you’re the reason I keep writing! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great post! This is our first winter on our farm/homestead. At this time, outside of our pets, we only have chickens, but our doing our best to keep them safe, warm and healthy during this winter. Perfect advice. Thank you!

  5. This is our first year having chickens, and of course it’s the coldest it’s been here in many years (-20C/-4F). I have been very surprised they are still going outside! We have an insulated chicken coop but I have noticed that the nesting boxes are much colder, as we designed it to have a side add on for easier access- not very winter practical though.
    Great post I will share on my page 🙂

  6. Excellent post, Lisa! I have baby chicks staying warm in a stock tank in our basement. They are providing me with exercise, up and down the stairs, and fabulous winter entertainment. 😉

    1. What fun! I’ve never had chicks in the winter. I did order chicks in October and I’ve had them as early as April. I worry about the sub-zero temps we get…usually in January or February, but this year it has already started…yuck. Thanks for sharing, Toni! sounds like a fun way to get your exercise!

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