My husband will be the first to tell you that I'm a fair weather farmer. I don't like to be out in the run when it's 100 degrees outside but I especially despise the cold wind that's blowing this time of year. He will also divulge that this is the time of year that I sweet talk him most often into caring for our animals.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm, cold weather forced me to make a few modifications to make sure the flock was as comfortable as possible.
In North Carolina I watch for:
1. Temperatures below freezing for more than 24 hours and/or single digit temperatures. My animals can warm back up during a sunny day and water can thaw, but not if it's continually below freezing.
2. Extreme winds and wind chills. Those breezes drop the temperatures inside and out and take what little heat has been conserved and whisk it away.
3. Multiple days of wet and cold temperatures combined. Dry hutches and coops beat wet every time. Sitting in a nice sunny window or perch can bring body temps back up but continued clouds, cold temperatures and wet birds is concerning.
My solutions? Insulation, plastic and heat lamps.
The rabbits are surrounded by a full bale of straw stacked in and around the walls of their converted hutch. It insulates and is inexpensive to replace. Clear plastic has been stapled over the windows and doors. A old quilt covered by a waterproof tarp adds a little more insulation to the roof in hopes of keeping that heat inside the house.
The chickens get the same plastic over wire coop windows but I've found that shavings work a little better as insulation in their space. When temperatures really drop, a heat lamp is turned on in the main coop and birds are transferred over. The rabbits came inside for the first single digit nights but a heat lamp has been added to their space now too. Quite honestly, there hutch may be cozier than my house when that red light is glowing.
After our first real snow of the year and record low temperatures, I'm certainly ready for fairer weather!