Keeping the Critters Warm

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As I write this blog post it is currently -11* outside with a windchill of -35*. Brr! It’s the kind of cold where your nostrils freeze just walking to the mailbox. We’re warm and grateful inside our little house, able to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors from inside looking out. Our animals however spend night and day living in this stuff. I don’t worry about them too much because, after all, they’re made for cold weather. But when it gets this cold…

We have a heavy breed of chickens (Isa Reds) and a bunny (Harlequin) who live outside, in addition to the dogs who only venture out to do their business and bark at squirrels. The chickens tend to stay in their coop on days where the temperature is below 20*. Our coop is well built and full of bedding so their collective body heat should go a long way to keeping them warm. Also from 2:30 AM to 8:30 AM they receive warmth from the red heat lamp intended to give extra light for egg production. But when the weather is super-duper cold like this, I also up the ante with a heavy helping of warm goop. Or mush? Slop? Ummm… this…

warm chicken food

It’s difficult to tell by the picture, but this pile of… mush… is a warm
(practically hot) mixture of leftover cucumber, squash and beef stew.

It’s made of whatever manner of leftovers are chicken-suitable. This particular batch is a butternut squash that developed too many soft spots for us to eat and some two-week old beef stew that lingered in the fridge.

Poor Nacho the bunny doesn’t eat warm glop, though. To keep him warm, I’ve added extra hay to his hutch and stuffed the empty hutches beside him with fall leaves for insulation. He also gets frequent warm water refills and a folded sheet at night to block out the wind (his front door is covered in mesh wire). And last but not least, a snuggle buddy: A sock-wrapped, hot-water-filled water bottle.

hot water bottle bunny

First I boil some water and add it to a regular old water bottle.

hot water bottle bunny

Then I cover the bottle with a wool sock.

hot water bottle bunny

Tie a knot in the sock to keep it snug…

hot water bottle bunny

… and fold it over for an extra layer of insulation.

I have to be careful not to forget about it because it only takes a couple of hours for it to transform into a giant icicle in a sock. Even with these day-time warm ups we’re still bringing Nacho inside to sleep in a travel kennel during the nighttime.

rabbit in towels

Poor nacho being warmed with towels
before his first night indoors.

None of these things will keep our critters 100% toasty, but they do help to take the edge off winter’s chill. Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping chickens and bunnies warm in the winter? I’d love to hear them (and I’m sure our animals would appreciate them too)!

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