The cold weather is never particularly pleasant. However, as humans, we’re lucky in the fact that we can wrap up in more layers, put the heating on and pour ourselves a hot drink. We have access to food when we need it, and somewhere warm to sleep. Animals might be designed to be able to cope with the cold, but it’s still not especially nice for them. Even animals like penguins will huddle together for warmth in a blizzard, and they’ve evolved to live in some of the coldest climates on earth! Here are some of the ways we can take care of our pets, wildlife and even livestock when the weather is cold.

Stop your pond from freezing over

During the coldest months of the year, ponds can easily freeze over– particularly overnight when the temperatures drop to their lowest point. If you notice this has happened, place a pan of hot water on the surface to carefully melt a hole. This prevents toxic gases from building up- if there are any fish or frogs hibernating at the bottom this gas can kill them. It’s not recommended to use blunt force as this can sometimes kill the fish underneath. Don’t pour boiling water into a pond either, you’ll do far more harm than good. Ponds give birds, insects and animals like hedgehogs an opportunity to drink, and if you want to bring more wildlife to your garden then digging a pond next spring is one of the best ways to go about it.

Grow out your garden

Chances are, you won’t be spending all that much time out in the garden over the winter. It’s cold and wet, and being warm inside tends to be the preference for most of us. So for this reason, does your garden need to look perfect? Growing it out a little and leaving it wild is really beneficial for the animals and insects that visit. Piles of leaves make perfect nesting areas, shrubs in garden borders can provide shelter and compost heaps make ideal places for toads, insects, even snakes to hide out! Even if you’re quite particular about your garden in the spring and summer and like to keep it nice, at this time of year it’s best to leave it in a way that will benefit the wildlife. Come spring you’ll have a project to work on which will keep you fit and be satisfying when you see the transformation.

Keep your pets in mind

If you have cats, the thought of them being outdoors in the bitter cold can be a little worrying. While cats that are used to being outside are pretty streetwise and usually ok, they can get frostbite on their ears and paws and are at risk of entering (and getting locked in) sheds and outbuildings where they’re looking for shelter. If you have a cat flap fitted that’s activated by your cat’s microchip, they can easily get in and out as they please and you don’t risk other animals getting into the home. Rats, foxes and even badgers have been known to get in through cat flaps! If you have a dog, be aware of how much time they’re spending outdoors. It’s ok to put them out for an hour or two while you’re cleaning or have guests over, just be sure they have a properly insulated kennel that keeps them warm and dry. Dogs should be spending the majority of their time in winter indoors with their family. They’re social creatures and can be stressed and lonely when they’re left on their own, and when you get a dog you should be prepared to provide a loving home environment for them. You don’t need to let them sleep on your bed (unless you want to!) but being inside and around the family is where they will want to be especially when it’s cold outside. If you keep rabbits, make sure their hay is kept clean since wet hay won’t provide warmth. During a storm, cover over the hutch with a blanket to prevent your bunny being too exposed to the elements.

Ditch daylight saving time if you keep animals

If you’ve ever wondered ‘why do we have daylight savings time’? this was introduced to essentially make better use of the daylight. However, it uses have been widely criticised, and one place it just doesn’t make sense is in agriculture or if you keep your own livestock. Cows will need to be milked at regular times, roosters will still make their famous cock-a-doodle-do on their own schedule and not based on the hands of a clock.

Feed the birds

Most of the year, birds have access to an abundance of food. Berries, insects, seeds and grains- however, this can all become scarce over the winter. Birds have a naturally high metabolism and require large amounts of food for things like flight, generating body heat, and maintaining their biological processes. They’re active creatures that require large amounts of energy as fuel, for themselves and for their chicks. They also need to be quick to keep away from predators! So when their natural food sources dry up it can be disastrous for wild birds. They actually now rely on human intervention to make it through the winter. Put out some bird feeders and/ or a bird table in your garden. It’s fascinating to watch these little creatures, and you have peace of mind that you’re genuinely doing good. It doesn’t cost much or require much effort if you have a bird table just be sure to clear the leftovers up regularly to prevent pests.

Put out a hedgehog hibernation box

Hedgehogs usually hibernate in October/ November through to March or April. So it might seem like it’s too late in the year to help them, however, hedgehogs tend to move at least once to a new nesting site during this time. This is the reason they’re sometimes seen out and about in the cold weather. You can buy hedgehog hibernation and nesting boxes from garden centres or online from places like eBay and Amazon. Alternatively, you can make your own, you only need a few simple DIY materials and there are lots of tutorials online.


Please note, this is a sponsored post on behalf of FatJoe Publishing and, as such, the words featured above are not my own.

Written by James Common

Naturalist and nature writer from North-East England, forever learning. Common By Nature is maintained as an outlet for opinion and personal musings associated with the natural world, and as a journal detailing my exploits in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

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