Winter has finally arrived in Saskatchewan. The other day, Hubby went out to do morning chores, and a frozen chicken fell out of the rafters at him. She must have been hiding when Hubby rounded everyone up for the night, and gone up to roost in the barn rafter, and not been able to stay warm enough out there by herself. You’d think she’d have let herself in with the other chickens (the same way she’d let herself out – flying over the stall door), but they don’t really tend to move once it’s dark. She was apparently frozen quite solid. It was only minus twenty-something that night.
Last night, the forecast was for -40. We finally broke down and ran an extension cord out to the barn, to plug in a heat lamp. Up until now, we had not done any additional heating or lighting in the barn – we’re trying to be as off-grid as possible. Instead, we laid down extra bedding, and piled bales of straw up against the doors where the drafts come in. The barn itself is not really insulated, except for the hay, which is piled in one half of the barn, and the straw bales we’ve added. There is an inside layer of wooden siding, which cuts the draft, but not much else. The roof is not insulated at all – no hayloft or anything, as the building originally stored grain, rather than being designed as a northern barn. We also take the water buckets out steaming hot, but they freeze solid in an hour or two. The critters have learned to drink right away when we water them, and don’t seem to be too phased by the whole thing.
Up until the frozen chicken attack, we hadn’t had any real issues with the cold. Of course, it hadn’t really been all that cold until recently, but even the nights that reached -25, the barn has consistently stayed substantially warmer than outdoor temperatures, so we hadn’t worried much. With five goats, two alpacas, however many chickens, and three cats, there are lots of bodies throwing heat. However, we’re getting down to those frostbite-in-fifteen-seconds sorts of temperatures, where I bundle up like a snowman just to walk across the parking lot at work, and we don’t want the critters to suffer. That heat lamp isn’t going to raise the temperatures to tropical or anything, but it should mitigate the risk of frostbitten ears and combs.
Our next barn is going to have a hayloft, and some sort of interior insulation. Or maybe just a couple of horses and a cow (for the body heat, of course). We’re certain it is possible to get our livestock through a northern winter without electricity – lights or heat – but we’ll need a proper building to do it in…