Unseasonable Heat and Animal Care

It’s March. I live in New England. Last year at this time there was a pile of snow at the end of the driveway. Today the temperature is going to rise past 80º F. As disconcerting as it is, I’m enjoying this unseasonably warm spring. This morning I walked out to the mailbox, barefoot. I’m wearing a t-shirt and capri pants. But, I worry about my animals.

The goats still have their winter coats on. They can handle very hot temperatures in the summer just fine (after all, this goat breed originated in Africa,) but they’re not designed to sit in the sun cloaked in layers of fur. I’ll be checking their water bucket a couple of times today to make sure it’s fresh and clean. A goat, even a thirsty one, will refuse water if it is even the littlest bit contaminated with a speck of dust. I’ll also go out and give the boys a good rub with the curry comb, too. This heat makes them so itchy!

Pip enjoys the morning sun, but later today you’ll be seeing him in the barn, where it’s shady and the concrete floor keeps things cool.

The Beast has emerged from her winter slumber. Koi can’t digest food when the water is cold, so in the spring Steve uses his digital thermometer to check the temperature. (If you’ve got the gadget, use it!)

It’s now safe to feed the fish. The Beast eagerly scarfed down her first meal of 2012. I don’t know if the heat will affect the toads that lay eggs in the shallow end. I hope it’s not too hot for them.

The hens have no difficulties coping with cold temperatures, but heat is another story. My barns are sited and designed to handle hot weather. They have excellent ventilation, cool concrete floors, and their backs are in the shade.It’ll be warm today, but not in the dangerous numbers, it won’t be humid, and the ground remains cool in the shade, so I’m not too concerned. However, if you have one of those small, prefab coops, with the wooden nesting boxes that jut out of the side, do keep an eye on your hens. A hen might sit in the box of upwards of a half hour before laying. A broody hen will stay in there all day. It can become deathly hot.

Topaz is thinking about going broody. She huffs up and stays put for an hour. Eventually, she lays an egg and leaves the nest. She’s got an Orpington’s thick coat of both downy and glossy feathers. Add to that the rise of her internal temp with broodiness, and she could have problems. I’ll be checking on her today.

Candy still has on her thick winter coat – she’s only just begun to shed – and rabbits die from heat stroke, so she’s the one that I’ll keep the closest eye on today. Steve has already taken down the wooden sides on the hutch that keep the snow out of her house in the winter. Now a cool breeze can blow through. We’ll be putting the shade tarp up soon. Meanwhile, she’s a smart old bunny, and knows to hunker down on the cool dirt in the shade.

The other animal to worry about is Scooter. He is a sun worshipper. He likes nothing better than sprawling out and baking every inch of his little body. He has no sense about it. When he starts to pant I shoo him inside.

The garden needs attention, too. Over the last two weeks, I planted cool-weather vegetables – parsley, greens, carrots and spinach. Unusually for this time of year, the bright sun has dried out the soil and I have to water. But, there’s still a danger of freezing and burst pipes, so I have a very, very long hose snaked out to the garden from the house.

It’s worth it, though, look a parsley sprout!

That’s not the only thing that’s green and growing. The peach tree is filled with buds.

Daffodils are blooming in the sheltered path along the stone wall.

But, beauty always comes with a price. The warm weather has spurred the first crop of pests. I’ve hung up the fly strips, which are a surprisingly effective, low-cost, low-tech, no-chemical control.

I’m ready for today’s sun and heat. A friend is coming for a visit this afternoon. I think we’ll have iced tea, while sitting with our bare feet in the pond.


  1. Freeze some water in a milk jug or pop bottle and put it out for Candy in the daytime. Then freeze it again overnight and put it out again. Helps a lot, the 4H kids here do that for their animals during fair week.

    • That’s a great trick, and I’ve used it. I’ve also half-filled the waterers, put them in the freezer until solid, then topped off with water before putting in the pens. For more about hot weather care, I have a FAQ.

  2. We’re having snow showers this morning here in the Seattle area. Got the first high school baseball game in yesterday with a big win and surprisingly no rain. I envy you with your bare feet and warm weather clothes.

  3. Have a wonderful day! My GOSH!!!! The BEAST is huge! May have to hook up the projector and show the kids..they still talk about her!

  4. Terry don’t pick on my little Scooter. I can’t imagine that he is not as sharp as a tack. ;-)

    I HAD to mow the grass yesterday, don’t think I have ever mowed in March.

  5. Loved your pictures. Enjoy the afternoon.I am sure some four and two

    legged friends will want to joy you also

  6. I am fascinated with watching your weather. I remember the mounds of snow from last year and the way Candy enjoyed them. This year is another story! Here in Hawaii I am now officially colder than you are – it ranged between 50 and 60 so far today at my 3000 foot windward location. It is also raining and however much we need the rain, which we do, I am envying your barefoot moments!

  7. Scariest snowstorm I ever went through was in the middle of April. OK it was in Central Illinois, but still…. Just saying!

  8. OK you’re going to need to turn the heat down a bit for my visit. Celts are not good in the sun! I will pack my factor 50.

    Very warm here too, and hosepipe bans about to come into effect in SE England.

    That rabbit is completely adorable. Tell her whether she likes it or not she will be on my knee having me pinch her cheeks. Shana punim!

  9. I so enjoyed the photos today! Topaz is a beautiful hen. Beast is amazing looking! As usual, the goats are adorable. Candy is so funny. I watched the YOUTUBE video of the hens sunbathing and there was Candy. Do you watch for sunburn on Scooter? My male cat has male pattern baldness and must take care if sunbathing. This past winter has been very mild. I can’t remember it being that warm. Thanks for the great photos and your blog!

    • Lily sunburns, Scooter doesn’t. But, one year Scooter did get heat stroke – he was shaking and one step away from convulsions. Very scary. Now I am very, very careful not to let him bake in the sun. Sweet dog. No commonsense whatsoever.

  10. Got one similar to Scooter. Pound for pound, he is worth all the thinking that we have to do for him!!! God bless Scooter!!!

  11. I’ve noticed the unseasonably higher temps in your area and wondered about the animals and their thick coats. You seem to be right on top of it, though. When I watch them they are active and moving around while getting on with their day. I figure they’ll escape to the cool places when they get too warm in the sun. Both goats and Candy have been out in the sun a lot, while the hens go in and out of their coop more frequently. Who knows, more snow and cooler temps could still fall this and next month. We just had snow and hale this past weekend at 2500 feet elevation here in the west and had not expected to see this until later this year. Love the photos of the animals :-) Take care, Terry.

  12. Out here in Western Mass. they are saying low 30’s at night over the weekend and 28F Monday night.

    I’ve had the cold frame open all week, even at night. But tonight I close it, as it’s to be low 40’s.

    I was out barefoot and in shorts yesterday, washing window screens as it’s gotten uncomfortable in our passive solar house during the day. The mosquitoes are so bad we can’t open windows w/o screens up. The 22nd of March!!

    Real scarey…

    • Mosquitoes haven’t reached us yet, but the ticks have. I was hoping the dry winter would reduce the mosquito population. Dang. The bluebirds are already eating green worms, so hopefully there’s some balance out there!