Updated February 13, 2020
When it comes to keeping your residents safe and comfortable indoors year-round, it’s important to take each species’ needs into consideration. As always, you need to keep individuals in mind when considering how to manage climate control as some residents will be more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than others!
While you may have come here looking for specific temperature recommendations, there are just too many factors that go into maintaining comfortable temperatures for your residents. Just like humans, animals can become acclimated to their climate, and therefore a goat who is used to living in southern California may become cold at a much higher temperature than a goat who is used to living in northern Maine. However, whenever there is a heat or wind chill advisory for your area, your residents will likely be affected and require additional precautions to keep them comfortable and safe. Always pay close attention to the forecast so you can prepare in advance for excessively hot or cold periods, and pay extra close attention to residents who have a history of temperature related issues.
Instead of specific temperature recommendations, we will provide suggestions for how to safely cool an indoor space or keep it warm, and will discuss the signs to look for that indicate your residents are too warm or too cold. Be aware that babies of all species have very specific temperature requirements that are not addressed in this resource.
General Living Space Needs
All living spaces need to be both waterproof and well-ventilated. It’s helpful if the structure has multiple doors or windows that can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions. This will give you the flexibility to have an enclosure very open and breezy on a hot day, or mostly sealed up on a cold day, with only enough of the barn open to allow for adequate ventilation without causing a draft. Having this flexibility goes a long way in being able to keep the indoor space comfortable. A windowless shed, with only one door can get quite stuffy and hot and a three-sided structure may get too cold or drafty when temperatures drop.
For most species, circulation fans can do a good job cooling a space, but it’s best to use fans that are rated for agricultural use- these types of fans will last longer and likely be safer in a sanctuary setting than your average box fan. In addition to circulating fans, you can also use water misters that attach to fans. Most types run off hoses, but there are also more expensive systems that use refrigeration to cool the water before sending it out the misting nozzles. If you choose to use any sort of misting system indoors, you must watch that the indoor space does not become too wet. In especially dry climates, the water may evaporate almost instantly, but in more humid areas, these systems could result in soggy bedding, which can lead to a host of other health issues, so you may need to reserve the misters for the hottest part of the day only. Make sure that all cords are kept away from residents, especially animals who like to chew such as goats.
In excessively hot climates, we’ve heard of sanctuaries using swamp coolers or air conditioning units in addition to fans. Swamp cooler systems only work in dry climates and require frequent cleaning to prevent issues with air quality. You also have to watch closely to ensure the living space does not get too humid. Swamp coolers may end up doing more harm than good if they result in an overly damp environment or the system becomes moldy.
Leaks, drafts, and humid housing can quickly cause unsanitary conditions, mold, bacterial growth, yeast and skin infections, and serious diseases like pneumonia. In colder months, it’s important to keep spaces draft-free but still well ventilated. If you need to use a heat source, you must also take all possible precautions to avoid fire in every structure on your sanctuary’s property. Fires are a tragically common occurrence at animal sanctuaries across the world. If you have a generous budget for your living space, you can install radiant floor heating (in large animal living spaces, this type of flooring should be covered with dirt), as this is the most fire-resistant heating method, but also the most expensive. You also have to ensure that the radiant heat does not create too much moisture! If you look into installing radiant floor heating, be aware that this system could cause an environment that is too humid depending on the type of enclosure you have. Typically, wood structures will “breathe” better than concrete block or metal sided buildings, which are more likely to sweat and contribute to high humidity levels. Additional ventilation may be necessary when using radiant floor heating.
We try to steer people away from using heat lamps whenever possible because they come with serious risks and have been known to cause barn fires. If for some reason you feel a heat lamp is your only option to keep one of your residents safe in cold temperatures, be sure to use a ceramic bulb heat lamp instead of a glass bulb style. Ceramic heat lamps still carry risk, but are generally a safer option than glass bulbs. Heat lamps must be hung securely away from bedding and other flammable materials and out of reach of the residents. They should be hung by a chain rather than their cord, and the cord should be kept away from residents. Check and clean heat lamps daily, and if you think a heat lamp smells strange, or something else is amiss, take it out of commision and have it replaced.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Pigs
In the summertime, a pig’s living space cannot be allowed to get too hot; pigs can’t sweat and extreme heat can cause suffering and a number of health problems. You can tell a pig is too warm when they breathe with their mouths open. Be sure they have access to mud puddles or pools of water that they can safely get into, as this will be the best way for them to stay cool. You can use circulation fans or mister fans to keep pigs cool in their living space, but you need to make sure that the barn is well-ventilated and their sleeping area remains dry. In very hot, dry climates, the use of a refrigerated cooling system connected to mister fans can be useful. Depending on the outdoor temperature and the type of cooling system you are using, you should adjust the barn to either keep the warmer outdoor temperatures out (by keeping windows or doors mostly shut, but still allowing for ventilation), or if you are trying to bring a cool breeze in, you will do the opposite and keep the barn almost completely open.
In the wintertime, it is important to provide an indoor space that is draft-free while still allowing for ventilation. Pig bodies generate a lot of heat, so you don’t need to go overboard in keeping them warm so long as the living space is not too large or drafty. Make sure to provide lots of extra straw for them to burrow in when it gets cold and arrange the space so that pig sleeping areas are not near an open door or window. You will most likely be able to keep healthy adult pigs comfortably warm simply by giving them ample straw in cold temperatures and the opportunity to sleep near each other. In some cases, the addition of blankets can also be used to keep a pig warm overnight. Overheating the space or causing a humid environment can lead to outbreaks of pneumonia. You’ll know a pig is cold because they will shiver. If you need to provide extra heat for certain residents, consider using a wall-mounted ceramic heating panel as it greatly reduces the risk of fire- just make sure the cord is secured away from curious residents.
Shelter Temperature Requirements For Cows
Cows are typically pretty hardy when it comes to most weather conditions, especially compared to many other species of farmed animals. Depending on your climate, you may find that heating and cooling sources are not necessary for your healthy adult cow residents.
In certain climates, you might be able to only use a three-sided structure to keep your cow residents comfortable if you lack the resources to create a fully enclosed living space, so long as the open side is not facing the prevailing winds and the enclosure does not get too stuffy during warm weather. In the summertime, make sure that you provide a shady area and protection from the elements if they need it. Circulation fans can help keep the space cool- just be sure to place them up out of a very tall cow’s reach! If you see any of your cow residents open mouth breathing during hot or excessively humid weather, they are likely too warm.
In the wintertime, an enclosed barn full of cows carries a high risk of causing pneumonia due to the humidity from the cow’s body, urine, and manure, so an enclosed barn needs to be well-ventilated! Although cows tend to live quite happily in many different temperatures, when it gets below 18° Fahrenheit (-7.78° Celsius), their body will begin to endure extra stress and require extra food to maintain a healthy body temperature- you must ensure that cows have free access to lots of hay during cold spells. A cow who is shivering is too cold! If your barn is properly insulated from drafts, a cow’s body (especially a herd of cows in an appropriately-sized area) will provide a good deal of warmth (and their winter coats will keep them even warmer!). There have been instances of entire herds developing pneumonia as a result of their barn being closed up too tightly by well intentioned humans trying to ensure they remained warm.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Goats
There are many factors that will contribute to how well a particular goat copes with extreme temperatures. While individual factors such as body condition, the thickness of their coat, and health challenges can affect a goat’s ability to comfortably withstand certain temperatures, breed can also play a role. Some breeds of goats seem to do better in warmer or colder climates, so bear that in mind as well.
Although they are fairly good at regulating their body temperature, excessive heat can lead to exhaustion and dehydration in goats. Therefore, you need to make sure that they can stay cool indoors in the summer. Open mouth breathing is a sign a goat is too warm. If it gets too hot for them to be comfortable, you can use circulating fans or even mister fans, but make sure those cords are secured and out of the reach of your goat residents!
Some goats, especially those with very thick winter coats, may do fine in cold temperatures, but others, especially those with health challenges that make it difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight, may be more sensitive. A goat who appears hunched and shivering is too cold. Ensure that they always have access to an indoor space that is well ventilated, but draft-free, and offer lots of clean, dry straw bedding. If any of your individual goat residents are struggling to stay warm, you can provide coats, so long as the coat design would not cause an accumulation of urine- this is especially an issue with male goats wearing coats with belly straps. If the strap slips over the pizzle, it can cause serious issues such as Pizzle End Rot. Also make sure they have access to lots of hay because eating and ruminating helps keep them warm too!
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Sheep
Excessive heat can lead to exhaustion and dehydration in sheep just like in goats. They also become less tolerant of the heat if they are carrying a lot of wool, so be sure to look into having them safely shorn before the hottest weather hits! If your sheep residents are open mouth breathing, they are likely too hot. The use of circulating fans, or even water mister fans, can do a good job of keeping an indoor space comfortable for sheep on hot days. Just be sure their indoor space doesn’t get too wet if you choose to use water misters.
Just as you should schedule shearing for your woolen residents before the hot weather hits, you also want to plan it so that your residents have enough time to grow their wool back before the weather turns cold. Most healthy adult sheep will be able to stay comfortably warm in the winter as long as their barn is appropriately sized and free of drafts, they have their full winter coats, and they have access to lots of hay. If you see a sheep shivering, they are too cold. Though not typically used as often as with goats, you can also use coats on sheep- just be sure they fit properly and are not accumulating urine.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Equines
As long as horses have free access to shelter to keep them out of wind, sleet, and storms, they tend to do well in most climates. Like all animals, their shelter needs to be kept well-ventilated and free from moisture and drafts ideally. Horses are comfortable at winter temperatures between 18° and 59° Fahrenheit (-7.78° to 15° Celsius) depending on their coat, size, and age. If their coats have been clipped or they have their summer coats, anything below 40 degrees Fahrenheit will be uncomfortable. Special consideration should be given to donkeys and, to a lesser extent mules, particularly in wet, cold weather. Donkeys generally do not fare as well in cold, wet environments due to difference in their coats. Additionally, seniors, horses with specific health issues, and recent foals should be given special consideration with regards to the cold.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Chickens
In the summertime it’s important to keep the indoor temperature below 80° Fahrenheit (26.67° Celsius) especially for large breed chickens as they are particularly prone to heat stroke. Circulating fans can be very helpful to keep a chicken living space cool, but it can also be helpful to offer foot baths with a few inches of cool water in them that chickens can safely get in and out of to cool off. Signs a chicken is too warm include holding their wings away from their bodies and breathing with their mouths open.
If winter temperatures dip below freezing, you will likely need to add a safe heat source in addition to a good amount of bedding. Chickens with large combs or wattles are especially prone to frostbite on these areas, and chickens can also develop frostbite on their toes and feet. Frostbite typically becomes a risk at temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Signs your chicken residents are too cold include puffed up feathers and huddling together. During periods of dangerous windchill, you should keep your chicken residents safely indoors, but you may also find that your particular residents have a lower tolerance for the cold and prefer to stay inside at even warmer temperatures. We recommend using ceramic panel wall heaters to provide additional heat.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Turkeys
Like chickens, large breed turkeys will be more prone to heat exhaustion than non-large breed turkeys. Ideally, indoor temperatures should be kept below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A turkey who is too warm will exhibit signs similar to a chicken- they will hold their wings out away from their bodies and breathe with their mouths open. Foot baths can be provided to help keep residents cool, and the use of circulating fans can help too. Male turkeys have been known to overheat while showing off for visitors or other turkeys, so you may need to make adjustments to living spaces to discourage constant strutting during hot weather.
In colder temperatures, additional bedding can help keep turkeys warmer, but if you live in an area where winter temperatures are often below freezing, you will likely need an additional heat source. Turkeys who are too cold will appear hunched and have their feathers puffed out. Ceramic wall heat panels, plus keeping the space draft-free can help keep turkey indoor spaces comfortable.
Living Space Temperature Requirements For Ducks and Geese
Healthy ducks and geese seem to be able to handle a wider range of temperatures than most chickens and turkeys, so depending on your climate you may find you can keep them comfortable without heating or cooling systems.
Like most other farmed animals, ducks and geese will breathe with their mouth open if they are too hot. Circulating fans can be used in duck and goose indoor living spaces to help cool the space if needed. Also make sure they have access to lots of water- both to drink and to splash in.
Healthy ducks and geese may choose to stay outside during temperatures when most of your other avian residents are hunkered down indoors. Ducks and geese have thick insulating feathers that help keep their bodies warm, and on cold days they often alternate standing on one leg with the other tucked up into their feathers for warmth. Though they tend to do well even during some weather chickens and turkeys cannot tolerate, we still strongly recommend you keep them indoors and take additional precautions during period of extreme cold or dangerous windchill. While some sources incorrectly state that ducks and geese cannot get frostbite, this is untrue. They can develop frostbite in their feet and toes just like chickens and turkeys. Muscovy ducks can also develop frostbite in their caruncles, and goose breeds who have knobs on their bills can also develop frostbite in this area.
Other Things to Consider To Keep Residents Comfortable
In addition to ensuring their indoors space is set up in a way to maximize their comfort during hot or cold weather, also consider other ways to keep them comfortable. For example, it is helpful to schedule routine cleaning and maintenance in a way that does not prevent animals from relaxing in their enclosure during hot or cold weather. This may mean waiting until later in the day when the sun has had a chance to warm things up before cleaning a goat living space in the winter, or it may mean cleaning a pig living space first thing on a day when hot temperatures are in the forecast.
Identify other events that may affect your residents’ ability to remain in the comfort of their enclosure, and take steps to adjust whenever possible. You may want to adjust feeding schedules or feeding areas to prevent residents from being forced to endure harsh conditions during feeding time. On hot days, it may be beneficial to schedule routine health or veterinary examinations for the coolest parts of the day, and in some cases it may just be best to reschedule for a day when temperatures are more mild.
If you have frequent visitors entering enclosures with residents who are more wary and tend to leave the enclosure when unfamiliar humans enter, you may need to look into ways to keep these residents in a different area of the barn that keeps them comfortable both physically and mentally, or you may need to make decisions about when it is not advisable to have guests in with certain groups.
Pig Facilities | Penn State (Non-Compassionate Source)
Baby It’s Cold Outside: Watch Out For Livestock | On Pasture (Non-Compassionate Source)
Do Livestock Need Cold Weather Sheltering During Winter? | Frederick News Post (Non-Compassionate Source)
Housing For Goats | Purdue University (Non-Compassionate Source)
How To Raise Sheep | E-Book (Non-Compassionate Source)
Equine Winter Care | University Of Minnesota (Non-Compassionate Source)
Goat Varieties For Hot Climates | Backyard Goats (Non-Compassionate Source)