It is hovering around 0 degrees here in Maine this week.
Our farmhouse was built in the 1700s by a ship’s captain. Although we have a whopping total of five fireplaces, only one is active. We keep our den warm and heat the bathroom and kitchen, when particularly cold, with electric heaters to keep the pipes from freezing.
Old houses were built to withstand the cold, back when ours was built there was not alternative for heating. And while a few nights can be pretty chilly, and once you get used to a cooler temperature isn’t so bad – the issue is that our bodies tend to be used to central heating systems.
Keeping animals warm is always a concern, of course. Our new chicken coop, built during the summer months, is attached to our porch and does draw some heat from the house. Chickens and geese naturally keep themselves warm in the winter by sleeping close together, feathers puffed out. The important thing is to make sure that they have plenty of clean bedding. Droppings can act like ice cubes in the freezing cold, but you do want a thick covering of shavings or hay down. When it’s this cold out, a deep litter method of just adding more and more bedding is the best policy.
As you can imagine feet, wattles, and combs are the hardest things to keep toasty on a chicken. If your chicken does get frostbite, it will eventually lose the affected part. You can also treat it quickly by applying oil or petroleum jelly when you notice any blackening.
Geese need fresh, warm water every day and when it is very cold, more than once a day. They can’t really eat without water, so it’s vital to resupply them when checking on their food.
Snow provides great insulation although no bare-footed animals want to walk in it. At the moment we don’t have much snow on the farm, but forecasts did call for a white winter. As we batten down for another few months of cold and snow, everyone seems pretty well prepared. No one will do a lot of adventuring over the next few months, mostly staying huddled in their homes.
Meanwhile, I’m already busy plotting summer gardens and new additions. Welcome 2015!