5 January

Animals: When It Hurts To Be So Helpless In The Cold

by Jon Katz
It Hurts To See Them So Cold: Liam In The Wind

I will be honest, it hurts to see the animals so cold. I have lived closely with sheep, donkeys, dogs and chickens for some time now, and this weekend, I think I feel as helpless as I can recall feeling about how to make them comfortable in the harshest winter weather I have ever seen.

After days of frigid temperatures and snow, the temperatures are plunging even further, with cruel and cutting winds driving the wind chill down to between 30 and 50 degrees below zero at times.

Sheep and donkeys are mountain animals, they can take extreme cold, but this is something new and disturbing, I hope it was up the sleeping and greedy people who deny the reality of climate change.

Sadly, so many of them are in positions of great power.

It hurts to see the animals so restless, and even anxious. They have food, warm water, good hay and energy-supporting grain.  I don’t overly baby our animals, they are hardy creatures and we have been through many hard winters.

But this one is hard on them, I can see it.

They have shelter from the wind and the snow. But I see them rush from one place to another, such weather confuses and agitates them, we have opened up the inner stalls so they can come farther inside of the barn.

The animals are spooked by the gusting winds, they sometimes run in circles until the winds die down, then they retreat into the pole barn. They seem anxious to me an restless.

That is really all we can do for them, and more than many people can do for them.

They are lucky in such unprecedented cold to have solid shelter and warming food, and we are lucky to have a sturdy old farmhouse with thick walls and plumbing in the center of the house. My neighbors and farmer friends are stunned, pipes are freezing all over the place and some animals have perished from the cold.

I will be fine, so will Maria and so will our sheep and donkeys. They have everything they need to rise this out, but they have endured weeks of snow and ice an freezing temperatures and the next 48 hours will be the worst of all.

We will be here with them, checking on them, feeding and watering them. We do the best we can for as long as we can, it’s no longer possible to stand outside for more than five minutes unless you have several layers of clothes.

I am fine, we are fine. Our lives are not in danger, on Monday we will be out shoveling and scraping and looking ahead to longer days and the coming of Spring. The color and light approaching will have special meaning for all of us, and i look forward to see the animals happily and comfortably grazing out in the pastures.


  1. I am glad you are well and making it through the storm! If it’s any consolation, we live in Canada and it was -42 C. last week here. Our sheep, miniature horse, goats, ducks and chickens have somehow survived this brutal weather. It is tough on them, but with extra grain, hay and warm shelter, they somehow survive. Wishing you and all your animals well. Stay warm and safe. Hi Maria!

    1. thanks Linda, we are doing grain and hay all day too, and they will certainly survive..hate to see them cold, which they must be..stay warm and thanks for writing..

  2. If you have to own sheep, you should have a barn that is equipped for them to be safe and warm in. if not, you should give them to someone who knows enough to properly take care of them.

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