When the colder months settle in and it's time to winterize your home, remember to consider your pets' needs too. Just because they have fur doesn't mean they don't get cold!
The Dog House
When your husband is in the dog house, it’s a bad thing but when your dog is in the dog house, it should be warm and safe, especially as the temperatures drop. Note that if it’s too cold and your dog is shivering, bring him inside or at least make him cozy in the garage or other insulated area.
Step 1 - Inspection
Begin by checking the structure itself. Shine a flashlight from the outside in and inside out after dark. Have a helper identify where the light is coming through. Look for any cracked boards on a wooden or plastic dog house.
Step 2 - Test
To really find out how much protection the dog house offers on cold and rainy (or snowy) days, hit it with a hose and see where the water comes in. Let it run down over the top and blast it from each side to find gaps.
Step 3 - Plug Holes
Once you’ve identified the areas for potential leaks, plug all the holes with caulking. For larger holes, you can use foam insulation from a can. Once your material is completely dry, run the light and water tests again to make sure the unit is sealed.
Step 4 - Add a Door
Keep the winter wind from tunneling through the dog house with a simple rubber doggy door. Measure the opening of the house and cut a piece of rubber from a floor mat. Nail it along the top and ensure it will move inside the opening when the dog enters.
Step 5 - Soften the Bedding
There are many items you can add to your dog house to make it more cozy during brisk weather. Try grass hay or cedar shavings for natural options with good warming characteristics. You could also add a pet bed, carpet sample, old sheets, or blankets to the space.
The Dog Run
Ideally, your dog will have a space to run rather than being isolated to a dog house or kennel all day. Attaching a dog run to the shelter is a great way to allow that freedom. Winterize the dog run by adding straw to keep it from getting too muddy during wet weather. Even better, add a permanent or temporary roof to the dog run to keep the ground dry.
The Chicken Coop
Most chicken owners would agree that the mostly-flightless birds qualify as pets with the amount of doting they receive. For the chicken coop, follow the steps for the dog house above, making sure the birds have a leak-free house and soft bedding. Then take the additional steps below.
Step 1 - Make Vents
It’s important to have good air circulation in your coop—mesh vents work well for this. They should be near the top of your coop for best airflow. To insulate for cold weather, add a cover you can lower down during harsh temperatures and heavy snowfall. When possible, leave the vent open during the day and closed at night when adverse weather is expected.
Step 2 - Build a Roost
Your chickens like to perch, and this is especially important when the ground is cold and wet. Build your roost at least two feet off the ground and make it large enough for several chickens to use at the same time.
Step 3 - Add a Sunroom
Your chickens' ability to roam during the winter months might be limited, but at least let them spread their wings a bit within the confines of the coop. Add a framed-in section to the existing coop either via an open doorway or small access. Cover the framed area with clear plastic or plexiglass to allow light to heat the space.
If you have other animals you consider pets living in the outdoors during winter, follow the same basic steps to keep them dry and warm. Make sure all shelters are leak free and offer some sort of bedding. Also keep up food and drink as dehydrated animals will struggle to keep warm.
Horses, goats, sheep, pigs, cows, and rabbits can all appreciate the warmth a shelter brings, but they should also have the ability to move into the outdoors as they wish. Depending on where you live, they may not be able to have free reign to come and go as they please, but at least ensure they can roam outdoors as frequently as the weather allows.