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Winterizing, adaptations and animal coats

Hello readers! My name is Adrianna, and I am keeper here at Outback Station. A little background about me, since this is my first blog, is that I am originally from Arizona. Needless to say, I am used to the warm, dry weather, not so much to Atlanta’s humid hot summers and cold winters. This means that as the temperature here drops, I quickly pile on the layers before work to stay warm! Down here at Outback we have also started to winterize the area for all of our animals. Luckily for all the animals, none of them are native to Arizona like me, so they are a bit better suited when it comes to winter.

One of the first tasks we will do is add freezer flaps to all of the barn doors. Freezer flaps may sound as if we are trying to create the barn into a freezer; however, it is quite the opposite. The flaps help keep out the cold air outside and stop the cold wind from flowing into the barn. Next, we will provide mats to the animal stalls, which add another layer to their hay beds to keep the warmth. One of the last tasks we will do down at the barn to keep everyone warm is turning on the barn heat and any added heaters we need to provide the animals with at night.

I mentioned all the tasks we do to keep the animals warm, but the amazing quality about our animals is that they themselves prepare for winter. One of my favorite ways to see how the seasons are changing is to watch as the tanuki grow their winter coats! If you have gotten a chance to see the tanuki over the summer, you would have seen how slender and sleek their coats are compared to now, when their coats are unbelievably fluffy and full of volume. The tanuki are native to eastern Asia where there are quite cold winters; therefore, they have the adaptation to grow their winter coats. The tanuki also go through what is called torpor, which is similar to hibernation but not the full extent. During torpor, the tanuki’s metabolism and physical activity significantly decrease, which helps them conserve energy to stay warm.

Not all of our animals have the luxury of growing those quick winter coats and going through torpor like the tanuki do, so we help them out a little more. For example, our sheep, while they do grow a nice wool coat, they need to be shorn twice in the summer to help them keep cool. Therefore, we plan their second shearing a few months before winter, and that way they have a good amount of time to grow a solid wool coat as the temperature drops. We also provide our goats with specially-made goat coats to add the extra layer of warmth if the sun is not quite out on a particularly cold day.

Now that the animals and the keepers here at Outback are prepared for winter, we hope you are too and we will see you here soon! P.S. If you are not quite as prepared as you’d like, you can always come brush and hug the goats since they’ll keep you warm!
Adrianna Lenz
Keeper I, Ambassador Animals

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