It was a cold and blustery morning…as in a biting wind that froze water (and exposed skin) without pity. The bitter wind blew the powdery snow around. We had already planned to move the rabbits indoors for the worst of winter, but the Minnesota-like wind chill sped that timeline up. And as far as the Minnesota reference, we do know of what we speak!
The unexpected depth of the cold merited immediate action. Armed with a really crappy staple gun and the only plastic we had on hand, we set about – before breakfast – closing off part of the rabbit tractors to block the wind. The wind made the job challenging, and it rapidly became painfully cold. We limped along with the substandard staple gun, half frozen, closing off one end of the tractors. That helped a bit, but the water bottles were solidly frozen (the metal “spouts” are really the bottles’ Achilles heel) and even though we brought out heavy porcelain chili bowls and filled them with warm water, the water still froze quickly. We filled up the bins (shelters) in the tractors with straw for warmth, gave them some cabbage and kale for treats, and made a shopping list. It was time to weatherize the tractors.
After a trip into town to get some supplies, we returned to the tractors, this time with 4 mil plastic sheeting and a new staple gun. We closed off all but 1 end, the end usually spared the worst winds. Air still flowed so ventilation looked adequate. We refilled the water bowls (after taking them inside and melting out the ice) with warm water, and the rabbits eagerly drank. Everyone seems to enjoy a warm drink on a cold day – the rabbits, the ducks, the chickens. The joy is palpable when the ducks splash their bills in the warm water. It’s amazing that such a small thing can create such happiness.
It’s the animals’ first snow experience. Some of the chickens stayed in the coop all day. Three of the ducks hung around their coop, standing in snow, until we shooed them into the old barn, where the more adventurous chickens were hanging out. It seemed like some of them just didn’t know what to make of the snow, and didn’t really want to check it out. The cold isn’t really fun for them; as beautiful as the snow is, they risk frostbite on combs or feet, their water freezes, food is harder to find. We supply the layer feed and a thick layer of pine shavings in their coop, but they want to scratch in the dirt and find worms, not eat layer pellets. Maybe this will be a short winter and the rabbits will be on grass and the chickens and ducks will be able to forage again soon.