Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hauling Water Buckets in Subzero Weather

We've been having some below-zero weather here in the Upper Peninsula, and even some -30 wind chills. And that means it's time to start hauling hot tap water from the house to the sheep barn.

You may wonder why I'm doing that. Snow on the ground is plentiful right now, it's clean and not covered by a hard crust. When I bought my very first Shetland sheep--- Sandhill Baneberry and Sandhill Trug--- the owners told me that Shetland sheep don't drink water, they eat snow. And it's true that my sheep often prefer it.

But Upper Peninsula winters are harsh, and particularly hard on old sheep and on undersized young ones. On a really cold day, eating snow can chill the sheep. I don't know if it's killed any sheep. But the old sheep seem to be more likely to die over winter, so I like to give extra care.

And so I haul buckets of hot water out on cold days. At first it was the older ewes--- who remembered drinking hot water in winters past--- who hogged the buckets. But the other day my crossbred ram lamb/herd sire Xami got to the bucket and drank like there was no tomorrow. (Xami is still with the ewes since I don't currently have a Shetland ram and since he's a ram lamb he may need extra time to get the job done.)

One of my daydreams is to one day get a heated waterer installed. It can't go in the barn since that has a stone foundation and it would cost more. But there's a spot in the barnyard it could go, and if advisable I could have a bit of a roof built over it. I have several handy men I'd ask for job estimates on that.

But for now, I haul water. I have finally wised up on it and don't haul a lot of water. I check the water level in the bucket and if the sheep aren't drinking, I don't add more to the bucket. So far I haven't had a layer of ice on the bucket bottoms.

I've also discovered that when I give hot water to the ewes, I don't really need to fill the chicken waterer. The ewes' water bucket is hung from a stock panel that divided the barn into a chicken zone and a sheep zone. (The chicken zone will shrink during lambing season as there are 2 stalls where the ewes with twins/triplets will go for a while.) The ewes spill enough water that the chickens get lots to drink from it, too. (I also feed the chicken either wheat sprouts or cooked grain on lots of days which adds water.)

The water hauling is not a dire necessity--- the flock can survive by eating snow--- but I'm hoping it's an aid to their well-being to also supply hot water on cold days. They seem to enjoy it, anyway.

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