Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fur Coat Ettiquette

The questions that you posed a couple weeks ago continue to provide me with
subject matter for this time when not much is happening on the farm.

Since it has been so incredibly cold this week,
it's a good time to address this next question.

Annie V. asked : "do all donkeys, horses, pigs grow winter coats, I saw the goat did and that he was trying to scratch it off, is that a sign that the weather is getting warmer. cant really see that now with all the snow we have but they may know something we don't.   What about the fowls of any kind do they put on another layer of feathers? I see the birds around here are really puffy."

I can answer with respect to my herd.

Horses and donkeys have the gift for being able to grow a winter coat.

Some horses, and ponies, and especially minis and donkeys can grow extremely thick coats
in the winter time.

It's a common misconception that growing a winter coat is triggered by the air temperature,
however, my equines begin to grow their winter coats long before it is chilly out.

And conversely, they begin to shed their winter coats before the cold weather leaves.

Our goats also grow very thick, wooly coats for winter and begin shedding them long before Spring.

This phenomenon of growing coat and shedding is actually triggered by the length of day.
Now that the days are getting longer, the herd is starting to let go of their winter coats.

Lucky for them, my equines are all very slow shedders, so they retain enough of their coats to keep them warm.

Because they hold on to their coats for so long, when the warmth of spring arrives,
I usually have to clip all of them to get rid of what is left of their winter fur...
in order to keep them cool.

As for Ginger and MaryAnn...
the pigs do not grow any extra hair in the wintertime.
This is why I keep their stall full of hay for them to burrow in...
with a heat lamp above to warm them.
They do, however, tend to shed a little hair in the heat of the summer;
growing it back in time for chilly autumn winds.

Because animals burn a lot of calories in the wintertime keeping themselves warm,
we feed lots of extra hay.
The extra hay puts a little wintertime weight on everyone,
that they usually shed over the summertime.

Animals also have a substance in their body called "brown fat" which helps to regulate heat.

I have been surprised to find that even on the coldest day,
if I put my fingers up beneath the forelock of the equines,
the area closest to the skin is toasty warm.

They truly don't seem to mind the cold, as long as they are busy nibbling!

As for the birds...
Many birds do grow extra feathers in the late fall.  In addition to that, birds fluff up their feathers, trapping air between them and next to their skin to maintain their warmth.
The colder the temperature, the fluffier they get!

Keeping food available for birds is extremely important in the wintertime,
as this helps them to stay warm as well.
Feeding the birds is a commitment, for sure...
just remember, you might be saving a little feathered life!


  1. Bev, I'm really enjoying the posts where you're answering readers' questions; some of them are questions I didn't know I had! Your posts are so informative and I really enjoyed the bird photos. Your blog is truly one of few that is worthwhile reading. Thank you so much! BassetMom Lisa

  2. I love their fuzzy fur coats always have , If we didn't shave our Miggs in the summers she would have a shaggy thick coat all year not to many dogs put on the extra beef or layer of fur like she does to prepare for the cold and she isn't out doors all day either and she pants even in the frigid cold , our vet thinks she has Husky in her and that's why . Lovely photos , thanks for sharing , Have a good day !

  3. this is a very informative post with great illustrative fotos....Ann

  4. i hope no one sheds anything this week! it sure is cold!

  5. Don't you wish sometimes we could grow a winter coat?? I get so tired of getting in and out of clothes..I guess that would make sitting in front of a roaring fire prohibitive..The birds are eating me out of house and home..Must go get some birdseed soon..Never saw a Blue Jay all fluffed up..Great picture..Makes him look very round..Happy Fat Tuesday..

  6. Love the lessons here today. I learned quite a bit-even though I grew up on a farm. Hope you have a great rest of the week. xo Diana

  7. Ah Ha! so that is what I had been doing wrong those 7 years up in Spokane, WA... I forgot to "fluff up"...to stay warm! lololol!
    Hugz & miss ya

  8. An American in TokyoFebruary 17, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    I love your Q&A blog posts! Very educational.
    Keep 'em coming! =)


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