2022 Arctic Blast – Part II

Out of the Cold and Into the Barn

So, once we had the goat buck and rabbits all tucked in for the arctic blast, we turned our attention to the barn. It’s the central housing area on the homestead. It’s actually a lean-to off the back of our workshop, but it’s exactly what we need. This is where the livestock guardian dogs and the goats reside. Just like the buck’s shelter, we needed to make the shelter as draft-free as possible for our dairy goats. There are five of them – three adults and two doelings (does that are not of breeding age).

Protection from the Arctic Blast

Starting in late September/early October, we like to “deep litter”. This is the method by which you allow the hay to accumulate on the floor of the barn intentionally. The litter will start to break down and in the process emit heat. It provides a nice warm bed for the goats (and their guardian dogs) during the winter.

Also, our lean-to barn doesn’t have doors. It has a big heavy-duty tarp that drops down over the opening to the lean-to. This tarp isn’t the best for keeping big drafts out, but it will keep the rain and snow out.

The goats are not used to the cold of an arctic blast.  They prefer spring and fall temperatures with lots of green.
These girls follow me everywhere.

We got to work blocking the doorway and the windows. We had tried this before during a cold snap and thought it would work well again. Even though the window was shuttered, it still left plenty of room for drafts. So, we hung a very large tarp over that attaching it with baling twine that was left over from bales of hay that had been used.

Last year, we had hung a tarp to cover the entry way that had a huge gap in it once the tarp was rolled down, but it blew very easily in the wind. We got a moving blanket on sale and thought to try that. It seemed to work better because it was heavier than a tarp and we thought it would hang better over that area. This allowed a very cozy bedding area for the goat to bunker down in through the blast from the arctic storm.

The four days prior to this cold spell, I had been giving our goats herbal supplements specifically designed to boost their immunity along with garlic.

The arctic blast was on the way and no one knew better in the barn.
Everyone ready for the storm to arrive.

The dogs also benefited from this cozy little spot in the barn, but we have a Great Pyrenees and a mixed breed who has very thick fur and would be just fine as well.

On to Our Feathered Friends

Lastly, but certainly not least were our egg layers. We have 26 chickens and 11 ducks. We deep litter their coop just like the barn, however, knowing this arctic blast was going to be a days-long event, we decided to confine them to their feeding area in the barn. Even if they slept in the coop, they would only stay in that coop if it was too cold on the homestead. (If you’d like to see more on that coop and how you can make one yourself, you can find it here: https://maplewoodhomestead.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=799&action=edit

This area also had a window that we covered with a tarp. Additionally, we threw down a bale of hay spread out to keep them warm and comfortable. We knew that days and days in this one area would probably make it pretty gross when it was time to clean up, but the priority was keeping everyone safe and alive.

They had food, water, nesting boxes, minimal draft and comfy, dry places to relax. We do not use heat lamps in the barn under any condition. We have seen and heard too many instance of people losing everything because of a heat lamp in the barn. So, we were hoping that they would have enough sense to cuddle to keep warm.

This area is usually their feeding area. Under that blue tarp is a cattle panel with a chicken size opening cut out. This allows the birds to eat, but the goats can’t get to their food. We put the blue tarp up to keep the chickens in and the cold draft out. They had all they needed to make it through the next few days.

"Buttoned up" and ready for a few days of the arctic blast.
They had food, water, nesting boxes, and each other to huddle for warmth.

All the critters had warm water and food. All drafts had been addressed where possible. There was nothing left to do. It’s these times as you walk away from a job that you hope you’ve thought through all the “what-ifs”. We had never experienced a “once-in-a-lifetime” arctic blast before!

We had taken care of everything and done all that we could to protect everyone. Now it was time to just see how they would all fare. It was none too soon either. We were wrapped up the exposed pipe to our water spigot just as the cold front blew in. The temperature started to drop.

How the Animals Fared In the Blast

We checked on the animals that evening for the last time. We realized that the wind was far worse than we thought it would be. The moving blanket was blowing in much more than we had wanted. That rather defeated the purpose.

The Dairy Goats and the Cold

So, we got to work moving bales in front of the blanket. The goats thought this was a lovely treat. We knew it would most certainly mean that there would be a lot of “wasted” hay. Yet, it would help make sure that the goats would have less of a chance of getting pneumonia. With the big swings in temperatures, it was recipe for any one of them to get sick with this. It is one of the more prevalent ways that folks lose goats. But, we didn’t mind. We would have to just count this loss ultimately as a gain if they all stayed healthy. Plus, they had extra hay to munch on. The bales did their job and made the set up more more effective.

Hay bales up against the moving blanket to prevent the wind from blowing in and freezing the goats.
A blurry image of Princess Ivy enjoying the bales placed in front of the moving blanket.

Our Goat Buck

The buck was all set. He had his new coat on. He was in his shelter. We pushed hay up to cover the opening a little to further enhance the blocking of the cold north wind. Here is an actual picture of how enclosed it all was that evening.

In the midst of the arctic blast, our buck is coated and packed up in his shelter.
In the midst of the arctic blast, Too Hot Prince is buttoned up and cozy.

The Rabbits of Maplewood

The rabbits did really well, as they have a lovely fur coat. They typically do much better with cold weather than hot weather. All that needed to happen was that we had to make sure and change out water every two to three hours. This worked well.

Additionally, we had a litter of 10 day old rabbits that we brought into our home. We weren’t sure they’d make it through. I am very glad we did.

Also, if you wanted to read more about our DIY rabbit hutch, you can see it here:

https://therabbitrycenter.com/free-build-plans/ We built it ourselves and you can, too. We absolutely love it!

Mother rabbit with 10 day old babies were moved inside for safety.
Momma bunny with her 10 day old babies in the nesting box.
Hugging twelve day old babies safe from the storm.
12 day old bunnies

The Final Word on the Arctic Blast of 2022

I have a greater appreciation for those who lived this way 150 years ago. Could you imagine not knowing the temperatures were going to drop 30 degrees or more within a 24-hour period? Could you imagine being unprepared? We are so thankful for modern technology. We were warned a week or more in advance that this inclement weather was headed our way.

When it was all over and the temps came back up, there was only one casualty. It actually had nothing to do with the storm itself. Our new puppy, who we usually have separated until she is fully trained, had to be in the barn. A not-smart chicken, who after a few days was done being confined, escaped. Well, puppy decided we had gifted her a running squeaky toy. You guessed it. It was not a happy ending for that chicken.

As of this date, a week later, there are no signs of illness with our goats. Some chickens did suffer minor frostbite, but all were still laying eggs and moving well throughout the whole cold spell. We learned a lot. Overall, we actually are pretty happy that we survived with no casualties

It was a lot of work. Hours went into preparing ourselves as well as the animals for this multi-day event. However, we learned a lot and put our knowledge to the test. In the end, it was an unforgettable (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.

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