A site dedicated to sharing general care of mute swans

To Shelter or Not in Winter

January 30th, 2015 | Posted by LadyNerkle1 in To Shelter or Not in Winter

To Shelter or Not in Winter. 
Or at Other Times of the Year.

Shelter Swans


            CLICK Images to ENLARGE


IF your Local Area is Expecting EXTREME or DANGEROUS Weather
Have a Plan to Shelter or Protect your Swans from Harm.Shelter Swans

Prepare for the Worst Weather Conditions. Winter Swan Care
Enjoy the Best Days with your Swans.Feral Mute Swans


NOUN – A Place giving Temporary Protection from Bad Weather or Danger.
A Shield from something Harmful.Shelter Swans

VERB – Protect, Shield, Screen, Cover, Shade, Save, Safeguard,
Preserve, Defend, Cushion, Guard, Insulate.Shelter Swans

To Shelter has so many Meanings..Shelter Swans
I think of the many things we do to Protect – Shelter ourselves.
Homes, Garages, Barns, Sheds, Porches, a Lean-To, a Roof,PA Grand Canyon CabinWalls, Doors, Windows, etc.

Swans Naturally do NOT Like to be inside any Structure.Feral Mute Swans
Shelter Swans

The first Year of Swan Care is a BIG Learning Curve.
For YOU and the Swans, Especially for the Young Cygnets.Shelter Swans
We have been doing this over 10-17 Years (2021) during the Winter Months.
Some were Feral Swans along the River.. Mostly for our Captive Pet Swans.Shelter Swans

I have Worried and Planned.. and Worried.. and taken Steps to keep
our Swans as Safe and Happy during the Winter as I Possibly can.Shelter Swans
I Plan for the WORST Conditions. And Enjoy the Best of Winter.Feral Mute Swans

So Far, we have NOT lost any Swans to Nasty Winter Weather.
Nor to any Predators. We have been Lucky.. (Knock on Wood)
We have Lost Swans..     Sadly YES.        Heart Breaking.Feral Mute SwansFeral Mute Swans

Doing this Project and Arranging Swan Connections..
I have heard some very Sad News.. Deaths due to Frozen Ponds..
and Unseen Night Predators.. Snapping Turtles..

Too many Sad Stories..  Too many Lost to Unknown Causes. 

It is a Challenge to Keep Swans Safe..
So, if what I have Learned..might help others..
I want to share.. Especially to those new to Swan Care.Feral Mute Swans

Swans look Fragile – Delicate… They look like Expensive Plush Toys
Gliding with Elegance on the Calm Mirrored Waters of a Pond or Lake.Shelter Swans

Healthy Swans are Surprisingly Durable..Shelter SwansEvery Place is Different.. and Swans will Adapt Differently.

To Plan for a Shelter.. is a Judgement Call…
Every Environment is Different.. the Risk Factors are Different..
This Topic Page is meant to Aid you Evaluating your Place.
Then make Plans that you are Comfortable with..Shelter Swans

******Captive Mute SwansCaptive Mute Swans Try to have the Swans Floating over Water that is at Least 4 Feet Deep.
  It would be Difficult for most Predators to Reach them.
Wild Waterfowl will use their Wings to Fly away from Danger
or to Seek Open Water when your Pond is Covered with Ice.Shelter Swans

Since Capture Swans are Pinioned or Clipped, they can not Fly Away from
Danger or Fly to Open Water. A Common Plan is to THINK Shelter..Shelter Swans

IF You are Willing to Construct a Shelter for Your New Swans..
First LOOK at your Whole Picture.. and what you know about your
General Climate, Water Environment and Predator Population..

In PA, I hear more and more Accounts of Eastern Coyotes – CoyWolves..Shelter Swans
These Large Wild Canine may travel in Packs.. may Stalk-Hunt
during the Day Hours.  Their Numbers are Increasing ALL the Time.
I hear them Mentioned More and More as I Speak with Swan Owners.

Several Years Ago, I did a Search for the CoyWolves in Pennsylvania.
I Read that there are an Average of 40,000 Removed Annually ! ! 

The Coyotes – CoyWolves have been responsible for too many Loses
of Domestic Swans, Geese and Ducks..
Shelter Swans

Swans, especially the Trumpeters and Mutes do NOT like (HATE)
being confined in a Building or Shelter – they feel TRAPPED.Shelter Swans

The Main Way Swans Protecting themselves is with their Wings.Shelter Swans
Buildings have Corners and Limited Space. In a Structure it is
TOO easy for Swans to become Cornered-Trapped.Shelter Swans

In a Building Swans can not Spread their Wings to (BEAT)
“FLOGGING” and Drive Off Predators, which is their Primary
Defense. They have NO Teeth and very little Bite Pressure..Male Mute Swan

During the Cold Months when the Temperature drop below Freezing,
Captive Swans NEED to be in Liquid Water to keep Warm.Shelter Swans

Inside a Structure they are Out of the Direct Weather, Cold Wind or Rain..Shelter Swans
But, depending on the Air Temperature it may still be VERY Cold.. TOO Cold.Shelter Swans

The last several Winters, we have had Periods of VERY Bitter Cold Days and 
Nights.  Temperatures WELL into the Minus Degrees. Shelter Swans
Conditions that Worry MANY Folks with Ponds and Domestic Waterfowl… 
TO Shelter or Not to Shelter…” that is the Question I get.

Shelter Swans
A Fluffy Pile of Fresh Straw.. (NO Hay) can provide a Place to Snuggle in.
Straw to on Ice & Snow
Shelter Swans  DO NOT USE Wood Shavings or Hay for Shelter Bedding.
     Wood Shavings are TOO Dusty.  Hay has a Higher Risk of MOLD.

If Straw is not available Old Blankets or Towels to Snuggle into will Help..Sheltering Swan
Try to Keep their Feet off a Hard, Frigid Floor.Shelter Swans

I have Never used Hay for Bedding..  TOO Risky.. Too much Mildew-Mold.

There is an increased Risk of Diseases, such as Aspergillosis, caused by exposure to Moulds.

I have Never used Wood Shavings..  TOO Much Dust..  Read Article Below.


Not ALL Out Buildings have Electricity Available..

Basic Water Tubs will Freeze..Shelter Swans

Shelter Swans

Heat Lamps make me NERVOUS !!  Use with Great Care… 
Chances are you will not have Fire Detection in your Out Buildings.Shelter Swans

452 Best Heat Lamp Fire Images in 2019 / Inside Chicken Coops

Basic 80 to 100 Watt Light Bulbs will help to Warm the Still Air in a Building.

Predators tend to be Animals with Claws and Sharp Teeth..
Swans only have the Power Stroke of their Wings to Defend Themselves.Shelter Swans

But, Swans are Always at a Disadvantage & at Risk when
there are Humans intent to Harm them.Shelter Swans

You know if you have a Predator Problem.
Do the Ducklings and Goslings Survive or do they Disappear ??
To Shelter or Not
That will need to be Factored into your Swan Care Plan. 
Shelter Swans I do know several Swan Owners that keep their Swans inside every Night.Shelter Swans Making sure they are Secure with a Sturdy Door..

Opened in the Morning..Shelter SwansFeeding Swans
 It is Wise to Removed ALL Feed from the Pond at SunSet.
Small Rodents will Visit the Feed.. and Attract Large Predators.
You Do Not Want to Invite the Night Creatures that will Stalk your Swans.
Shelter Swans

Having to Clean-up for these LARGE Messy Birds is an Extra Chore.
If they can be Safely Cared-for out on their Pond – your Life will be Easier.Shelter Swans

Ponds with an Isolated Island have a Safer Place for Nesting in the
Spring, Roasting-Resting in the Summer and Fall Months.Island Mute Swan Nesting

Sitting out on these Islands will not keep them Warm in the Winter Months,
they will be Subject to the Air Temperature.

Plan ahead to Equip your Pond or Lake Side with DeIcing Equipment.Shelter Swans
Keeping an Area Open that is over Water at least 4 Feet Deep..
is where Waterfowl will Generally be Safe and Happy.
There are ALWAYs Exceptions.. I have Never had to deal with a Bear..Shelter Swans

WE Make sure our Swans have a Winter Wake.. And so Far,
the Swans we care for have been fine for 12 Winters Outside..Shelter SwansEvery Day they are OK.. I Count my Blessings.
We keep a Back-Up Plan Ready… just in case..Shelter SwansShelter Swans

IF the Electric Power goes OUT during a Nasty Winter Storm,
will you have a Back-up Plan ????Shelter Swans

WINTER CARE for Swans Has more General Info..

Swans Winter Care

Liquid Water is NEVER Colder then 33 Degrees.. (there are exception.)Shelter SwansSheltering Swans
Healthy Waterfowl are VERY Well Insulated. All the Preening
you see them doing, is to Condition their Feathers for this Reason..Swan Preening
Having Adequate, Proper Food Daily gives them the Calories they need for Quick Energy.Winter Swan Care

Watch for Shivering.       A Little should be OK..
Shivering more then a few Minutes will Drain Energy too Quickly.
They are not Coping with the Cold.Shelter Swans
The Wind Chill may be what is too Much for them to Deal with..
It may be Wise to take the Swans inside and let them Rest for a while..
Shelter for Swans
Winter Swan CareCheck their Weight.. They may be Underweight and Need Shelter..Sheltering Swans

    It is Nice to have a Friendly Companion to Snuggle with.

Winter Swan CareHealthy Swans generally do Fine in a Winter Wake.Shelter Swans

The only Swans I have seen use Shelter in Cold Weather willingly,
are the smaller Black Necked and Black Australian Swans.Shelter SwansShelter Swans

Once they go inside for the Night – the Door must be Secured
and then Opened again in the early Morning.Shelter SwansCygnets that Hatch Late in the Year are Too Small to be Outside in Colder Months. Sheltering Swans
The Black-Necked and Black Australian Cygnets will Need to be
Sheltered as they Grow.   Tiny Cygnets are Eating-Pooping Machines.Shelter Black Australian Cygnets******Sheltering Swan Cygnets

All Swans and Cygnets are VERY MESSY…LOTs of POOP.
Life is easier if the Swan are able to stay on their Pond.Shelter Swans

Putting either an OLD Plastic Shower Curtain, OR Large Trash Bags,
or a Thick Plastic Drop Cloth or a Cheap Tarp on the Ground, Decking,
Concrete Surfaces as a Barrier will help with Clean-up and avoid Staining.Shelter Swans
Any Place the Swans would be Pooping.. and Spilling Food..Shelter Swans

Then LAYERs of NewsPaper with a Flake of Straw spread about for a Soft
Bedding-Substrate. You want to keep their Webbed Feet off the Hard Floor.
The Layers of NewsPaper let you just ROLL-up Most of the Soiled Straw..Shelter Swans

Putting your Swans in a Barn, Shed or Garage – Check for Hazards.Shelter Swans
Sharp Objects, Glass, Things that Might Fall, Places to get Stuck in.Shelter Swans

Shelter Swans

Shelter Swans

******Shelter Swans

If Swans get Bored, they will get into Trouble.

Check if they could Reach any Broken Windows.Shelter Swans  Check the Shelter will be Safe from Predators Coming IN ! !
Cygnets with Parents to Raise them Generally Live on their Pond.Captive Mute Swans
Young Cygnets are VERY Vulnerable to Hawks, Owls, Snapping Turtles.. Shelter Swans
It will increase their Survival to Hand-Raising them.. Sad, but True.
The Cygnets Below are the Survivors of a Brood of Five. 
Three Taken by Hawks.
 Hand Raising Swan CygnetsHand Raised means without their Parents.   
When Hand Raising Cygnets.. (without Parents)Hand Raising Swan Cygnets
Tiny Cygnets need Supervision when out in the Yard or Pool during the Day. Hand Raising Swan CygnetsShelter Cygnets
They NEED to be Sheltered until they are at least 6 Pounds..Hand Raising Swan Cygnets
And after that depending on your Predator Population.Shelter Swans

       Except for Hawks, we had a Low Risk of Predators in our Back Yard.Shelter Swans
Hand Raised First Year Cygnets will March into a Structure for
Safety and Shelter every Night, Once it is their Regular Routine.Hand Raising Swan Cygnets

Healthy Cygnets 4 Months Old (12 to 20 Pounds) may do Very Well
over Deep Water at Night.Hand Raising Swan CygnetsWinter Swan Care     Thin Ice was Forming along the Bank.  “Hannah” is Biting at the Ice. 

Swans Generally do not Eat a Night..
Unless there is a Pecking-Order Problem – Competition for Food.
It can be an Extra Safety Factor to take their Feed inside at Night..Shelter Swans
This will Reduce Small Night Rodents which in turn may Attract
the Larger Predators..Groundhog

Plus, Small Rodents, Chipmunks, Mice, Rats, Squirrels, Moles, Voles, Groundhogs, Opossums, Skunks, Muskrats, ETC, Etc, etc.. may carry Diseases in their Poop and Saliva.Shelter Swans

These Sneaky Nocturnal Rodents Love Raiding your Swans Food Containers at Night.Pond Muskrat Hole

There are a few Situations when Sheltering is Safer for Waterfowl..

A Hurricane BLOWING Through is a Good Reason to Shelter Swans.Shelter Swans
We have Rescued Several Lost-Wayward Swans after High Wind Storms.. Mostly Full-Wing Swans..  This Female was Found after Hurricane Irene.Rescued Mute Swan      This Young Full Wing Male was Rescued after a Nasty Summer Storm.
Rescued Mute SwanShelter Swans
Full Wing Swans may “Take to Air” and be Blown Far Away from their Homes.Shelter Swans   
  This Summer Storm Developed with Noisy, Rolling Thunder.
Shelter Swans
Spring and Summer Storms can Fuss-up Quickly..  What to Do ??Shelter Swans
If there is a Storm with HIGH Winds.. and or HAIL..  OR ICE…    Maybe ???Shelter Swans  An Icy Winter Storm will Coat EVERY Thing, Including the Swans.

 A Forecast for a Severe Lightning Storm. Shelter Swans

There will likely not be enough Time to Safely do Anything.. 
Be Aware, Waterfowl can be Electrocuted from a Close Lightning Strike.  Rare but Possible.             Here Weigh Human Safety vs. Swan Safety.

In the 17 Years we have been Involved with Swans, I only know
ONE that was Killed in a Summer Storm.  A Pair of Swans were put in a Shed to Protect them during a Nasty Storm. Shelter Swans Sadly, a Tree Fell on the Shed and Killed the Female.   So Sad… 
 AGAIN a Judgment Call..

Another Time a Shelter is Necessary..
is to Recover an Injured, Weak – Swan whose Health is Compromised.Shelter Swans
When Wound Bandages need to be kept Dry..Shelter Swansand Medications are Prescribed.  It is GOOD to have a Plan Ready.

For Long Periods of Time INSIDE…
Bring them Pond Water Twice a Week to Keep their Immunity Active.
Shelter SwansShelter SwansSheltering SwanSheltering Swan  Inside – Inside Kennel Fencing – in a Dog House..  Resting and Healing.
   He needed Surgery for Debridement of Painful Bumble Foot Sores. 
Some People like to Keep a New Swan inside a Safe Place for a few Day..
For an Adjustment to a New Home.Shelter Swans
***********************************************************************Shelter SwansShelter can be Shade where there is Lots of Summer Sun..Sheltering Swanand few Natural Shade Structures like Trees or Shrubs.Shelter Swans
Pool Water in Full Sun can become HOT..Shelter Swans

During the Winter a Kidde Pool will Freeze.. This Bucket Heater Worked.
Shelter for Swans
Another GOOD Reasons to have a Shelter..
For Protection during Nesting – Especially with Two Female Pairings.
They have NO Male to Protect them.Shelter Swans
Two Females are Very Vulnerable – Female Nest Mortality is HIGH.
Nesting Female Swans like a Solid Structure on One Side of their Nest.Captive Mute Swans
A Hill, Bank, Thick Tree Trunk, Fence.. or a Wall ..Shelter SwansSheltering Swans
Few Swans want to Nest inside a Structure.. a Few Might.

Black Australian Swans will Nest Inside.. Frequently.Shelter SwansCalf Hutches might be used..  They have NO Door ..
You will need to Improvise.  They should be Anchored to the Ground.
These may Blow OVER in a Stiff Wind.  They get HOT in the Sun. 
Sheltering Swan

Always Secure the Opening for the Over Night Hours.Shelter SwansPersonally, I do not think Plywood and Cinder Blocks are Adequate.Sheltering Swans

  The Thick Layer of Straw in this Calf Hutch was Not Changed for Months. 
I Stopped to Visit with Injured “Little Cutie.” 
During the Warm Summer Days, Spider Nests Matured and HATCHED ! ! 
I Found the Cygnet COVERED with Tiny Spiders.   EEEEEKKKK   !!!   
She was Moved >>>>>>> and Rinsed THOROUGHLY.
Sheltering Swans

The Calf Hutches Look Nice.  Attractive Landscape Features. Sheltering SwansSheltering Swans
A Shelter might be needed to Move Swans to a Safe Place…
IF there are any Dangerous Chemicals released to their Water Environment.Shelter Swans
Unexpected Chemical or Oil Spills do Happen..
The Pond above is a Reservoir Impoundment along a small Stream that Flows through several Housing Developments.  Around 150 Homes are up Stream. Swan Shelter

People along the Stream can dump almost anything into the Water that Flows past the Swans.  ALL Lawn Care Chemicals will Drain to Pond.

Sheltering Swan   Summer Heat, Organic Waste, Lack of Rain….
This Pond became a Toxic Soup of Hazardous Algae Bloom and Bacteria. Sheltering Swan

The Swan Family moved to a Cool, Flushing Stream on the Farm.
Not all Properties have a Stream. 
The Shallow Stream Provided NO Protection from Predators at Night.

Pond Water with Little to No Flow Through can becomes too Toxic due to Organic Decay..or INCREASED Pathogenic Bacteria Concentrations.Shelter Swans Ponds with Poor or No Flow Through will become Stagnant during Periods of Drought.  Foul Smelling Pond Water is NOT Safe for Waterfowl.
This is a REAL Concern for Retention Ponds.
Shelter Swans

Sheltering Swan
OR if there is a Disease being Spread during Migration Season. 

.. Listen to News Reports..
Or Check with State Agriculture Website.. for Updates on Avian Diseases.
They may Advice Sheltering your Domestic Waterfowl and Poultry.
Shelter SwansAvian Influenza in Wild Migrating Birds.
Avian influenzaA  Viruses are Very Contagious among birds and some of these Viruses can Sicken and even Kill certain Domesticated Bird species including Chickens, Ducks, Waterfowl and Turkeys. Infected birds can shed Avian influenzaA  Viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces.

Avian Influenza in Birds | Avian Influenza (Flu) – CDChttps://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-birds.htm

***********Another Nasty Avian Virus Spread during Migration.

Duck Viral Enteritis – (DVE) is an Acute, Highly Contagious Disease
of both Wild and Domestic Ducks, Geese, and Swans of all Ages.
Characterized by Sudden Death, a High Mortality Rate,
(Particularly among Older Ducks).Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Ducks are Most Susceptible.Muscovy Ducks

Prevention includes Biosecurity and Avoiding Contact
of Captive Waterfowl with Wild Birds.  Especially During Spring Migration.Sheltering Swan

I Know of One Confirmed Back Yard Pond that was Affected.
They Lost 4 of their 5 Muscovy Ducks within Several Days. 
Their Pond is in an Area where Waterfowl are Migrating North in the Spring.
Sheltering Swan

And One Farm Pond that had Several Muscovy Died after a Feral
Muscovy Visited their Pond.  Not Confirmed, but Fits the Pattern.Sheltering Swan

 We had a Scare with DVE when One of our Female Swans Died in May.
Tests Determined it was Clostridia and Not Duck Viral Enteritis.. 
I HOLD my Breath every Spring.. Watching Ducks Flying North..Migrating Mallard Ducks
..that our Domestics will be OK… 
There are some Reasons for Shelters that I have likely forgotten to List.
********************************************************************    Sheltering Swans                ******************************************************************
There are Not Any 100% Correct Reasons for Sheltering..

There are so many Variables.. these are ALL Judgement Calls.
You must Decide how Your Environment may affect your Swans.
Safety.. Comfort and Both your Happiness..
And YOUR Worry Factor..  How Worried are You ? ? ?

PLAN AHEAD….  Instead of Panicking.

Shelter Swans  This Shelter Worked Well for a Rescued Swan Waiting for a Forever Home.

Several Times, I have Sheltered Swans and Cygnets for a Few Days in our Downstairs Shower.  It was Great for Clean-ups.   Messy, Messy, Messy.

Shelter Swans

God made Little Creatures SO Cute..Shelter Swansso we will take care of them despite the Mess.. (-;
This is a Work In Progress.                                UpDates  February 2021
COMPILED by PA SwanLover Linda

SHELTERs COME in MANY Forms.Sheltering Swan

******Sheltering SwanSheltering Swans
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Sheltering Swan

   The Igloo Shelters were Used by the Chickens.. Not the Swans..
Sheltering Swans

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  An Animal Rights Group INSISTED this Golf Course Provide a Shelter for their Swans.  This Tiny Structure with a Ladder-like Stairs was Built.
Sheltering Swans

       In Over 25 Years, this Might have been Used by Rodents.
Sheltering Swans

******Sheltering SwansSheltering Swans******Sheltering Swans
Sheltering SwansSheltering SwansSheltering SwansSheltering SwansSheltering Swans******Sheltering Swans
Sheltering SwansSheltering Swans*******Shelters for Swans
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Sheltering SwansSheltering SwansSheltering SwansSheltering Swans*******Sheltering Swans
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Sheltering Swans        It is your Judgement Call..  To Shelter or Not to Shelter.
Sheltering Swans

This was Fun to Organize.. I HOPE Some of this Information will be Helpful.
Compiled from our “Out and About” Experiences

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