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What do you do with animals when temps get -30 to -40 below? We live in Massachusetts and we are in one of the most fridged air mases in decades. We have 7 chickens and 2 rabbits outside. DD does 4-H and we would hate to lose her animals.

The chickens are in a wire coop that has acrylic glass around it for the winter, to keep out some but not all wind. The floor is wrie also but we have put hay over that to keep some heat in. We run a red bulb 24/7 when it gets cold. It has been so cold we added an old heater in one of the nest boxes that blows outward. Chickens fdon;t mind losing the box and they seem to be thankful it;s there. They lay all there eggs in the nestbox next to heater lately LOL We can keep it roughly 10 degrees Farenheit higher than outside and we have no idea what the rela temp is in there due to windchill factor.

The rabbits are in hutches. These hutches are in an winterport (artic type plastic garage that do wind gets in just lotsa moisture in there,unless you leave the flap open. And right now we live on the down slope of a hill so it;s closed for the next week or more)garage. And it is zipped, no real wind. We have plastic draped over the front of the hutches, so one side is open only of hutch. ALso we have 150 watt reptile heat emitters on the outside of cage aiming inside at their water dishes. One rabbit will go inside the nesting box filled with 3 inches of hay (sometimes more if DD gets carried away, DD's 5) and one rabbit thinks the nestbox is the latrine. SO we just give him hay in the hutch run part about 2 inches thick and he has one of those plastic igloo type hut things in there.

Any suggestions as to if this is enough heat, etc for these animals not to freeze to death over the next 3 days?????
Any advise will be greatly apprecaited.


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Feed heavier than you normally would, it takes more to keep them going. Keep them out of the wind, if you have any and deep bedding makes all the difference in the world. We keep livestock and the temps you're seeing are not uncommon up here and I've found that when it gets that awful cold, I'll feed more times in a day, not neccesarily increasing feed by that much but it gives them a constant level of energy. When it's really cold here, I like to cook up some cheap brand of pasta and feed the rabbits, the extra starch seems to help somewhat. You normally get some cold weather, although this is extreme, so your animals have some some natural preparation for it and you're giving them some heat so that should help a lot. Don't forget, the heat you've added is probably enough to bring their environment up to normal winter temps for your area, you don't want to make it too warm for them or they'll suffer terribly when the temps become seasonal and they've been in the tropics.

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I know its hard to do but make sure they have plenty of water.

big rockpile

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15,516 Posts
When that happened out here I put my chickens in a cage in the garage, with a heat lamp on them because it was well below freezing even in the garage. Several layers of newspaper insulated them from the concrete floor and helped keep the mess down. It was unpleasant to clean up after but it did bring the birds through.

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We just survived - 17 degree weather with snow and wind. Hang in there, our last 3-4 days have been a balmy 32 degrees. With your animals make sure they are blocked from the wind. Make sure they have warm water to drink, several times a day. If they have the water they will produce energy with the food digestion to keep warm. But they need to have the water to make it work! We hauled hot water out in milk jugs and water over 70 rabbits, goat, and poultry. The bunnies learned to put there heads in as we poured! The ducks and geese followed us wating for their warm water. We only lost one bunny and he was only 12 days old, he followed mama out of the nest box and couldn't get back in the nest. The rest of the siblings are fat and sassy.
I did notice that my feed use increased by quite a bit this time. But I will still be able to market my fyers on schedule (which saves money if I don't have to hold them longer to finish them). so keeep the water going. Good Luck

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in preperation for tnext winter; build or restore your pens so "airtight" walls can be screwed on (plywood osb ect), and have tight doors you can shut at night. draft will freeze them, not the cold. once you have a draft tight area, your heat lamps and/or heaters will hold the heat in better.
even in my big 3 sided horse shed, if there is a leak that lets the wind draft in, even though the one side (not facing the wind) is open, it is MUCH warmer In there without a draft.
retro fitting your pens to take osb sheets screwed on tightly isnt a big effort, at most youll need to build up a frames on the outsides to screw them to, in sumer you can remove these panels.
that is if they are built that way, if they already have solid walls, all you need do is draft proof the walls.
bunnies are pretty tough if they are fed well and chubby. if they have "hutch boxes" on the end of open pens, drape sevral tarps over them all the way to the ground and wegh them down. bunnies chew as you know, so a metal caged barn fixture with a 100 watt bulb will keep em tosty warm, provided yyou can seal out the draft. open doors slitted rug doors wll keep enough air out and enough fresh air in, its the draft you want to prevent.
its nasty cold again here on SWPA, not like it has been, its getting like it was years ago... bitter cold. (not often subzero but damn close)
In the spring, keep in mind the winter problems you have now and correct the design of the pens.
seal the drafts out, make removeable panels to seal over the wire walls that are open, and provide a safe heat scource. Above all, make sure you can access all parts of the pens, even if you have to make a new door or hinge a roof somewhere.

a note on bunnies; I used to have a bunch of em, pets. the best house I ever built them and they seemed to love it (and keep it clean themselves oddly enough) was underground! I used culvert pipe chunks, some pottery type some plastic some metal, arranged above the ground then burried in a pile of fill dirt I had to put somewhere. they had one opening but they dug a few of thier own, and in the dead of winter I could reach inside and it was really WARM in there. it wasnt a big mound, and I had several small cave houses in the pen for them also. Above ground, the ones I set in holes always flooded, the above ground ones didnt (It looked like a bever lodge in a chicken coup)
one of these days i will have to get some more bunnies...
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