One thing about raising animals, is that you are on duty no matter what! Ice, sleet, snow, hotter than Hell, no matter the weather conditions, you are in the middle of it for better or for worst. Hey, I remember hearing that about something else? Oh yeah, that promise I made to my knight in a baseball cap and jeans. Love that man! Don’t worry, I am going to say right now that caring for animals is a lot less complicated than marriage. I had better get back on subject before I get myself in trouble.
So, how do I tuck my animals in for the Winter? Before I go on, let me just remind you that I live in North Texas. Hats off to you Northerners who are stuck inside with your children for days at a time. I think I could shovel my drive way, scrape off my car and brave the icy conditions just to get away from the little heathens, I mean angels, for a while. No, seriously, although I am a sissy about Winter weather, there is something magical about it. Think a warm pot of soup simmering on the stove, the smell of freshly baked bread( I hear my friends snickering because they know I cannot bake edible bread) and snuggling in, to the read aloud from a good book. Someday I am going to so master that bread thang!
For me, Winter also means getting out there early to unfreeze water crocks, make sure everyone has plenty of hay and extra calories to burn to keep warm. When it comes to rabbits, let’s state the obvious here; They have a fur coat! So much easier to get a rabbit through the Winter than the Summer heat.
I do give the does a nest box full of hay to hunker down in, if they need to. The bucks I throw a bunch of hay in the corner of their cage to do the same, or to eat, whatever they decide to do with it is good with me. If I have a bunch of babies like I do this year, they are coming in with us. Honestly, Adeline is a great mom and covered her babies with a thick bunch of fur, which she pulled from her tummy, but I am not taking any chances with these babies.
Plus it is super fun to have 8 adorable baby bunnies in your midst! Champagnes are born black, but will turn a beautiful silver as they grow. By 8 weeks old they will be completely silver!
In the Fall I start putting the weight on my animals. While it is not fashionable for us to be fat, it might be a whole different story if we all lived outside. Those that are fat in Fall are going to make it through the Winter. Those that are skinny, well, are not. I give my Champagnes a 1/2 cup of alfalfa pellets in the morning and another in the evening. Rabbits are crepuscular ,so their natural tendency is to eat at early dawn and again at dusk, so I adjust my feeding schedule to accommodate this natural pattern. A rabbit that is nursing 8 babies gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants! Adeline stores away 2 cups of food a day. Plus everyone gets kale from the front yard garden. What really puts the fat on my rabbits is a mixture of oats, black sunflower seeds and wheat germ oil. They love it! They love it soooo much that we call it bunny crack. As in, a substance that they are addicted to. Perhaps you should call it something else because my kids had all kinds of questions about that name, of which I happened to know way too much about. I am today a new creation in Christ, whiter than snow, my sin is as far as the East is to the West, Jesus saves! Any hoo, moving on to chickens.
Again let’s state the obvious here; Chickens are covered in feathers, with a cozy down layer underneath those feathers! I can’t tell you the amount of questions I get about putting a heat lamp in the chicken coop. No, don’t do this! You might have a emergency call into the fire department in the middle of the night. While we can all agree that we love those buff guys and gals in uniform, we are not so crazy about them putting out a fire, in our chicken coop, on a cold December morning. Give those hens a wind break and you are golden. Also give them chicken scratch, which is like the bunny crack, but for chickens. You can ask for it at your local feed store. Don’t worry you don’t have to whisper when you ask for it, it is perfectly legal and chickens love it!
If you are like me and you raise meal worms on top of your drier(I know! Who does this besides me?) then by all means give them worms!If you would like to see how I raise meal worms for my chicken see here.
Yes, you do have to be hands on when you raise animals on your homestead, but at the same time this duty draws me outside. Sometimes I see the brightly colored leaves drifting to the ground. Sometimes I spy a little brown wren singing her heart out, a sassy squirrel, a morning dove taking flight. This is all something I would have missed out on, had I not chosen to rise early and care for my animals. This is the rhythm and pulse of life that I have decided to become part of and am enriched because of it.