Summer is quickly coming to a close and it’s officially time to gear up for fall. I’m sharing some tips for fall homesteading and preparing your homestead for fall in this post!
Photo cred: Red Maple Photography
I’m not sure how it happened, but fall is officially on the horizon. Summertime is my absolute favorite, and somehow it completely flew by this year. Summer gardens, long summer days, and late bed times are just a few of my favorite things, but I can sense the seasons changing. The crisp air is making early morning chores feel a bit cooler these days. I always struggle with the changing seasons. Chicagoland winters are long and brutally cold, but I’m trying to appreciate each season as it comes. Each season on the homestead comes with new things to look forward to and be grateful for (like breeding our 3 does to our bucks for the first time!)
Fall Homesteading: Preparing your homestead for fall
As the seasons change, you’ll need to start preparing your homestead for fall. If you live in a climate with colder fall/winter months, then it’s especially important to plan ahead of time. Nobody likes to wake up to find surprises on the homestead – like frozen water in the goat house and chicken coop (Yep, that happened to us.) Rather than frantically ordering supplies on Amazon (like us), learn from our mistakes and have the necessary supplies on hand. I hope you find my fall homesteading checklist helpful as you start preparing your homestead for fall!
Chicago weather is crazy, which makes preparing your homestead for fall a bit tricky. One day you’re wearing a tank top, and the next day you’re searching for a winter coat. Temperatures change extremely quickly, so it’s important to have necessary supplies on hand for fall homesteading. We were hit with an early cold spell last year, which resulted in our chicken and goat water buckets freezing over. Thank goodness we checked the water buckets first thing in the morning, or dehydration could have hit quickly. Below are the heated water systems that we use during the colder months:
Keep the coop warm
Seeing as we live in a climate with months of extreme cold, we have cold hardy chicken breeds. (You can read about our favorite chicken breeds here!) With that being said, even cold hardy birds can suffer from extreme temperatures. Although we have not experienced this first hand on our homestead, many people have chickens develop frost bite and other cold-related issues. During extreme cold months, we use the Cozy Coop.
As always, please remember that adding any heat to your coop (or other animal housing) increases the risk for fire. We personally feel comfortable using the Cozy Coop because it’s only 200 watts. Of course, it’s always important to weigh the risks and benefits of using any external heat source. We only use the Cozy Coop during extreme cold temps. Remember, your birds need to acclimate to the changing temperatures, so it’s not advisable to add heat at the first sign of cold. Rather, only use it when it’s absolutely necessary. Even though the likelihood of needing to use the Cozy Coop for fall homesteading is rather low, we keep it on hand for weather emergencies as winter approaches.
Keeping the goat house warm
Just like chickens, goats are hardy animals. Our Nigerian Dwarf goats do well in extreme heat and extreme cold temperatures, which makes them the perfect fit for our Chicagoland homestead. There’s one exception to this general point – baby goats. Baby goats quickly develop hypothermia after birth, so it’s important to plan goat kidding for spring time whenever possible. (Ideal time for breeding is fall/early winter.) Seeing as Chicago weather is unpredictable, it’s not uncommon for March babies to be born in freezing temperatures. Which leads me to the controversial topic of supplemental heating in goat housing….
Heat or no heat?
Adult goats are resilient. Generally speaking, unless temperatures are extremely cold (I’m talking dangerously cold!), they do not require any supplemental heating. Any supplemental heating (i.e. heat lamps, etc.) are extremely dangerous and significantly increase the risk of fires. Remember, goats are curious trouble makers. If your goat pokes around a heat lamp and somehow knocks it over, it can lead to an absolutely tragic outcome. Fall homesteading isn’t that cold, so we do not add heat.
Again – when possible, we avoid using any supplemental heat in our goat house. To keep your goats warm, be sure that housing is secure without any outside drafts. Straw bedding provides extra warmth, and some people prefer to use the deep litter method to keep their goats extra warm. We tried this method last year, and I personally hated it.
Tons of bloggers discuss the deep litter method on their blogs, but here’s a brief glimpse into the idea – Rather than completely cleaning our the goat house, you keep adding extra layers of hay onto the dirty layers. This essentially insulates the floor, which keeps the goats warmer. I personally find this method a bit disgusting, because the bottom layers start to break down and smell pretty awful when you rake it out. It also becomes really heavy and difficult to work with. This year, we’ll simply use a generous layer of straw and clean the goat house on a weekly basis (if not more.)
Fall Homesteading & Nutrition
As the seasons change, nutritional needs change a bit as well. When the colder weather hits, the chickens naturally have less access to bugs. Our girls usually consume more chicken feed during the fall and winter months, simply because their opportunities to forage change. During fall homesteading (and every other season!), we continue to give our chickens table scraps to provide more nutritional variety. As a heads up – egg production naturally goes down as the colder weather hits as well.
As breeding season approaches for our goats, it’s time to start making sure that everyone’s health is in optimal condition. Offering high quality hay, free choice minerals, herbal dewormers (effectiveness is controversial), and copper bolus supplements are just a few practices that we do regularly on our homestead. This will be our first year breeding our does with our bucks, so I’ll be sure to share any tips along the way!