Gardening & Homesteading

How to Ready Your Barn for the Winter

Winter is just around the corner, and that means you need to prepare your barn to weather the cold. Here are some tips on how to winterize your barn, so that you and your livestock can have an easy hassle-free winter!

Winter is just around the corner, and that means you need to prepare your animal shelters to weather the cold. It’s best to get started as soon as possible, else you’ll find that it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to complete certain tasks when the real cold hits.

Here are some tips on how to winterize your barn, so that you and your livestock can have an easy hassle-free winter!

Organize and Clean Everything

Fall is a great time to do a thorough cleaning of your barn. Cleaning and organizing is integral in keeping your barn functioning smoothly through the winter, especially as days get shorter and the weather gets colder and wetter.

Get rid of any extra and non-usable supplies you might have, like empty feed bags, broken equipment, or piles of junk. Dust off any surfaces, including shelving and lighting fixtures. Hose down stalls and mats, and clean and/or replace all the bedding.

Your cleaning dissuades winter dust from settling in, and also helps deter rodents that tend to take up residence in warm spaces like your barn during the winter time.

Prepare Your Water Supply

Making sure your barn has a clean, unfrozen supply of water for animal care is integral in the winter months. Kathy Key of Key Stallion Station states, “Some people think horses can lick the ice or eat snow. That doesn’t work. Your horse will get colic if it does not get enough water to digest the roughage consumed to keep warm.”

Rather than waiting till winter hits, COIT suggests getting your pipes insulated in the fall, so as to avoid problems later.

Make sure that all your tanks, pipe warmers, and electric waterers are in working condition, and check every day to make sure your animals aren’t getting shocked by any currents. 

Related: Is Your Garden Hose Toxic?

Keep Emergency Stock

You never know when a terrible storm might hit, blocking roads and preventing you from leaving home. In this common winter scenario, it’s always good to have some extra supplies at your disposal.

Keep items like hay on hand; a good rule of thumb to always have 10 percent more than you think you might need. Feed is important too, and having two to three weeks of extra feed will be a boon in any emergency.

The important thing to remember about buying feed is to check the expiration date, and if you have extra that’s about to expire, then use that first, and buy some more as your emergency supply.

Ready your animal first aid kit with all the items you use regularly, as well as any items you might need for more severe animal injuries, in the event you can’t get to a veterinarian.

Be Ready for Ice and Snow

Many things can be used to provide traction on icy footing. These include straw, salt, sand and ash. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, salt is better at melting ice but also kills vegetation. Make sure you are using an animal-safe, ice-melting salt, instead of regular rock or table salt.

Straw, sand and ash are safer for vegetation and animals, but are messier and also slow down the melting process. Make sure you are stocked up on traction providers and ice melters long before it starts to snow.

Also make sure other supplies, such as snow shovels, scrapers, plow attachments, and winter tools are in ready-to-use condition.

Inspect Your Roofs

Fall is the perfect time to spot defects in your roof due to the light coming in during the day. Equus suggests standing inside your barn during the day and looking for gaps that allow light to come through. Sealing up cracks and holes in the roofs and walls will not only make sure that your barn is weatherproof, but will also help to keep away rodents.

Winter can bring a lot of water damage to your barn, which in turn creates an environment easily susceptible to mold growth and bacteria infestations. First Choice Power strongly recommends that you “have a look at your soffits, fascia, and roof vents for any areas of separation or exposed underlayment, as these areas present not only opportunity for water to enter, but also to travel horizontally, exposing more areas to water damage.”

If you aren’t sure about the overall structure or roof integrity of any animal housing, then don’t let animals live in these spaces until they are examined and okayed by a professional.

Another thing you might consider is installing snow guards, if you don’t already have any. Snow guards are mounted on the roof to prevent large snow slides and buildups that can damage gutters and foundation plantings.  

Make Sure Any Powered Items Are in Working Condition

Service any equipment in late fall, making sure it is completely usable. This includes changing engine oil, replacing antifreeze and having ample lubrication for equipment like tractors and mowers.

Check and upgrade your tires, and very importantly, make sure all your lights are functioning well. During the warmer months with plenty of sunlight, lights are often neglected, but when winter hits, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you made sure they were working!

With these tips, you should be in good stead by the time the cold hits. It’s always best to get a head start so that you don’t face too many problems later!

Winter is just around the corner, and that means you need to prepare your barn to weather the cold. Here are some tips on how to winterize your barn, so that you and your livestock can have an easy hassle-free winter!

About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.

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