Archive for winter

Preparing Guinea Pigs For Winter

I was going to get this out Wednesday, but started feeling flu-ish. Yesterday, I woke up with a fever of 100.0 so I decided to call out from work and just try to rest in bed as much as possible. No fever today, but I do have this yucky cough thing that is/was going around the school I work in.

Anyway, to the guinea pigs! Kaida’s guinea pigs used to live inside in a cage tower that I built with 1.5 levels totaling 13.75 sq ft for each gender group (3 females in one 1.5 level section, 2 males in the other 1.5 level section). After we adopted her new cat, Jingle, the guinea pigs moved to the barn into a slightly renovated 8′ x 4′ stall that I divided in half, so each gender group now gets about 16 sq ft all on one level. The cat decided it was fun to reach her paws through the bars on the door-side of the cage (the entire side could open to make cleaning easier) so the guinea pigs were moved to where no predator could get to them.

With winter coming on fast this week, I wanted to do something that would help them be able to stay warmer without plugging in heat lamps just yet. I’m trying to save the heat lamps for when it’s -15* F wind chill and 4* F without the wind chill, which we’ve had for the past two years in February.

I used dish pans with the sides cut out to make hay boxes for them when they were inside. They are cheap and are pretty easily cut. That’s what we used in the outside stalls and I knew that that would be where they’d be spending most of their time.

I also know that hay can act as a pretty good insulator. The trick was to find an inexpensive way to (1) help hold in their body heat and (2) still make it easy to clean since they’re going to poop and pee in their hay. Enter…the storage bin!

I bought a 3-pack of 45 qt storage bins at Costco (they’re not sold there online, hence the 54 qt linked to the description, the closest that Amazon had that would still be large enough to fit over the dish pans) and turned them upside down to see if they would fit over the dish pans. They do! They’re easy to move and let in all the light. However, they did not cut as easily as I had hoped. I used my jigsaw with a wood blade on it and the plastic ended up breaking several times instead of just cutting. The bin that had been sitting in the barn and was colder actually broke more and ended up with more sharp little corners.

I’m letting them work as-is for now, but may try to file the corners a bit or maybe try to come up with a different solution. Maybe the metal blade would cut the plastic better?

More hay will be added in to help insulate. I just wanted to be able to show the fit with a lower hay level. This is in the girls’ side. The black guinea pig is Indie (Independence), the white one with the multi-colored ear is Freedom, and the red one is Peace. The boys (not pictured) are
Justice and Liberty.

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Getting Ready For Winter And Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here because we’ve been busy offline. Raise your hands if you spent days around Thanksgiving traveling! We traveled Wednesday through Sunday, north of us, south of us, and then north of us again. By the way, NEVER, if you can possibly help it, NEVER travel on a highway on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. What normally takes us about 4 hours to drive took 7!!! I now officially think that colleges should stagger their return dates after major holidays.

What else were we doing? Getting the animals set up better for winter! I started with the run-in. I admit I had put off mucking out the run-in for a while (don’t ask), but it’s not as obvious that it’s building up when it’s goat pellets and hay versus when it’s horse or cow droppings. I was picking out the run-in all the time when we had large animals out there! I did not have to clean up after the pigs, because pigs make a different toilet area away from where they eat and sleep.

I needed to clear out the side I use to access the back so that I could more easily get a larger order of hay brought in. It was deep when I started.

 

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It started looking better as soon as I got the hay all off of it, but I still needed to take out the composting stuff.

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I had the brilliant idea of using my little electric tiller to break it up, making it easier for me to shovel out (we don’t have a tractor). That only worked on part of it; part of it was too hard for the tines to get into. I had to use a metal hay fork to break up the layers to shovel them off. Yes, it’s embarrassing to own up to this, but such is life sometimes!

I finally got it dug out to where I could open the gate all the way. I then proceeded to move all of the project wood that I had in the back, rearranged the feed bins, and moved the milking stand. You can see part of the back of the run-in in this picture showing my progress on the floor.

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I called in the hay delivery–40 bales. That’s the largest I’ve ever taken at one time, because I used to have firewood stored in the back of the run-in as well (still working on storing the new firewood). There’s a certain feeling of security that comes from looking at a wall of hay put up for the next 2 months! The empty feed bin in the photo is sitting on top of the milking stand. The next step for this area is filling up all available feed bins!

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Next I moved on to making a shelter for Bubba and Marshmallow since they’re still in the inside yard until they get castrated, hopefully just before Christmas. I was originally planning to build an entirely new shelter in the back behind the inside yard and against the outside wall of the coop extension. That would get them out of the inside yard, but would’ve also put them where they couldn’t easily see the other goats. I started to move plywood and 2x4s out to the area and then decided that I would rather use what I already have instead of building something from scratch and having to worry about whether I had enough plywood, could roof it well enough but simply enough to take apart after a month.

I decided to use the chicken coop. I have posted pictures of the extension before; it’s still the same size. I was on medication over the summer that made me just sweat rivers and could not stand to be outside doing anything. I even gave up the garden. I just felt too bad when I was outside.

I closed off the side that’s open to the extension to help it stay a little warmer inside. I then moved the plywood around on the front so that the door actually is on the same side as the door in the framing (I had not worked out how it would fit together before and did not have the time while I was doing all this to make a door). I added shelves for the goats to get up on and hung two hay racks.

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I have since realized that (1) Bubba and Marshmallow don’t like to go in there and (2) the chickens like to sit on top of the boys’ hay. So I need to figure out how to keep the chickens off the hay in an easily removable way. For Bubba and Marshmallow, I think they need a nightlight. I just purchased this light on Amazon. It’s an outdoor, solar-powered string of lights that costs less than $9 per strand. I bought two; I’m planning on putting one in the coop for Bubba and Marshmallow and one in the run-in for the main herd (does and whethers). The big bucks are in front of the house and get light as long as we leave the porch light on.

outdoorsolarlightsI’m thinking I’ll also block off one side under the front porch for Bubba and Marshmallow to get out of the wind during the day since they like to be on the front and west sides of the house where they can talk to other goats. They can get out of the wind now, but they can’t see anybody else when they go there so they don’t.

What have you been doing to get ready for winter?