What cold-weather preparations are you making right now?

By kevinoman0221 on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - 2:28pm

Just wondering what those in the area might be doing to protect against this cold weather we are having?

I have chickens and wonder if there is anything I ought to be doing for them right now besides making sure they have plenty of food, a dry coop to sleep in, and that their water doesn't freeze. They seem to be doing fine, but sometimes I am scared at what I might find when i go to check on them in the morning and it is soooooo cold...

I also covered my citrus trees with fabric and strung them with Christmas lights, connected to an outdoor timer that senses when the sun goes down and runs them all night. It seems to be working well. 

Any other basic cold weather preparations people are taking for plants, animals, or something else? 


kevinoman0221's picture
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related info



December 9, 2013 - As a bitter cold air mass continues spreading across California, breaking low temperature records in many areas, the state’s top emergency manager is reminding everyone to heed the warnings of state and local officials to be prepared.

“This weather system is serious and the impacts shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). “In previous years cold weather emerged gradually and more seasonably, but this year it’s more sudden. Unusually low temperatures that persist can be very dangerous to people, pets and our agricultural industry,” said Ghilarducci.

greendoc's picture
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As a general rule, plants are

As a general rule, plants are more susceptible to frost damage when they are already drought stressed. Before the frost hit, I went around and watered well my citrus, potted plants, some recently transplanted things and then covered them.  I tried to pick as many ripe olives as possible and get them in a brine soak, but so far the green olives look fine....last year I picked them on New Years and looks like I'll be doing the same.  I still have some Jiro/Fuju persimmons on the tree I left for the birds and they are also just fine.. These are the kind that do not need to be bletted before eating, so I thought they might suffer from the cold.

 My chickens are fine too...same precautions as you. I do give them extra food (they loved the meat that came off the turkey carcass).  My neighbor hangs a 60 watt light bulb for extra heat and light (and supposedly to keep the hens laying more in the winter) but I never really saw the need. Seems like a fire danger.  I set some traps in my garage and shed for mice/rats...thinking they might lookign for somewhere warmer than outdoors. I guess I should go check them.   

It was 19 this morning and it got up to over 50 today where I live. Which really is not that cold.  I'm from Nebraska and this is nothing. Balmy even.  But I do try to have a "black ice" defensive driving mind set when I drive late at night or early morning......something I developed learning to drive in the midwest. It is pity more folk do not have that here....the weather rarely calls for it but it can save your life.  SLOW DOWN, and take the time to clear your windows front and back before pulling out of the driveway.

cmartenson's picture
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Don't worry about chickens in cold weather...

I suppose some breeds of chickens would be an issue, but for the dominant breeds, like Rhode Island reds and Barred Rocks, their cold-hardiness is extraordinary.

Ours have gone down to -25F without any auxiliary heat and in a well-ventilated (meaning uninsulated) hen house.  

They are really very tough animals.

Sure, they are a little slow in the morning, but they manage...

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Central California


We normally have tomatoes until Christmas, but we lost all of our plants with the hard freeze.  The following plants were covered with burlap and survived - onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and celery.  Lettuce and 'mature' onions were left uncovered and did fine.  Cilantro also survived uncovered.


We place a 100 watt light in the orange tree.  This provides enough heat to keep the fruit from freezing. Will pick in a few weeks.  The avocado trees (first year) were covered and didn't survive.  Bummer. 


Covered the cage.  Rabbits do much better in the cold than the heat.

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I think the biggest hit to

I think the biggest hit to our garden is that the fava beans aren't germinating.  I normally plant favas early November and they are up by Thanksgiving and easily survive any hard frost.  But this year we got the cold snap so early and it was so dry between planting and the frost they never really germinated despite soaking beforehand and one brief rain.  If this becomes more the norm, I will need to plant favas a month or so earlier and water them.  And yes, the tomatoes are toast and I can usually count on them till Chistmas.  We have lots of green tomatoes for relish and fried green.  I make a moroccan tangine with green tomatoes too.

Nate, Don't despair over your avocado yet, it might not be totally dead.  I have a Stewart and its first two winters, despite being covered with christmas lights and remay, got alot of frost damage, but it pulled through. Now it is gorgeous 12 foot tree and I could not even begin to cover and it is totally fine. But if we get colder winters in general it will affect blossom formation and fruit set.  So it might end up a nice ornamental that does not produce. : (

Grover's picture
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Off Season Is The Best Season

It's a little late to worry about winter preps, but look at the local advertisements for ideas. If something looks interesting but not immediately necessary, make note of it. Next spring or summer, you'll be able to find it cheaper. Are there seasonal items you had a hankering to buy during summer or fall? Off season is the time to find those items the cheapest.

Isn't prepping all about getting things you might need before you need them? Why pay full retail? With a little planning and action, you can be ahead of the game.


PS - I agree with Chris. Chickens are tough as long as you cover the basics. Sounds like you've got them covered quite well. Keeping a light on during the cold times only may not be the best solution. They're finely tuned to day length and that "kind" gesture could throw off their internal clock. I wouldn't do it.

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To Go/Survival Bag

I keep a duffle bag in my car as there are only a couple of roads in and out of the city. If someone is killed in an accident the road can be closed for hours. These bags can be stocked with garage sale items of hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, toys, lights etc. Having extra diapers, snacks, stuffed animals or blankets you can give away in an emergency (like a car accident) or use yourslf can make a world of difference. There are a lot of articles about what to put in to go bag.

Ak Granny

GM_Man's picture
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Chickens are hardy but....

One thing that you need to consider about laying hens is that they lay eggs based on their exposure to light.  With Winter, chickens will lay fewer eggs because of the lack of exposure to light.  So putting a light in their coop that will keep them warm will also ensure that they consistently lay eggs during Winter.  If that is not an issue for you, then by all means, don't use a light in their coop.

Rgds, GM_Man

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Chickens and cold

You don't have to heat the chicken coop but I'd make sure it's dry and free of drafts.  I string some Christmas lights on the coop in winter which makes it easy to collect eggs in the dark and seems to keep the egg production up.  I keep their water thawed with a base under the metal waterer that has a 40 watt incandescent bulb, and lug a bucket of hot water out in the morning too.  Birds with large combs or wattles, especially roosters, can get frost bite there below about 0F without supplemental heat.  Also, if you can't collect eggs until late in the day, they can freeze and crack if the coop is really cold.

I have to deal with really poor circulation and freezing in my hands in winter.  One of the best investments I made to be able to enjoy the outdoors was in a pair of mountain/expedition mittens like they climb Everest with, plus a large supply of hand warmer packets. 


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Animals and Cold

I have chickens and sheep. Both need to be in housing free of drafts, and both very hardy against cold.

For my chickens' waterer, I got a round farm basket -- one of those that are made with thin, flat slats of wood and have wire handles. A 3-gallon screw-top waterer fits perfectly on the mouth of the basket and sits on top The handles keep it from getting knocked over when the little klutzes fly off their roosting bars and crash into things. I lined the basket inside and outside with reflective insulating material (can find it at any hardware store) and installed a light fixture at the bottom. The water has been fine with a 25-watt bulb inside so far. Plus, the reservoir of the waterer is red, so when the bulb lights up, it glows red, which will not prevent the chickens from sleeping the way that light from a bulb otherwise would. These Yellow Comets (aka Red Sex Link) don't seem to slow down in the winter, so I have not needed lights to keep up egg production. If you have lights to simulate longer day light hours, I would suggest plugging them to a timer so the animals can sleep at night. On very cold days, I give the ladies snacks with high fat content, so that they have the calories inside them to generate good body heat.

My Icelandic sheep don't really need anything other than a draft-free place to call home, but when it is really cold I give them a bit of grain in the afternoon so they don't have to use their reserves to stay warm. Sheep can only eat about 2% of their body weight in hay, which is usually not enough in calories in very cold weather. We have heated buckets in the barn (which they poop in, to my continuing chagrin).

Cats, of course, snooze by the wood stove....

Stay warm, everyone.



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