Surviving Extreme Weather with Reptiles
I thought I was moving to Texas, somewhere WARM...instead I feel like I'm in Alaska! -2F and power outages, frozen water pipes. Challenge: keeping hundreds of exotic animals safe while keeping the rodent feeders "moderate" so they don't either freeze or stroke out on me.
I PLANNED AHEAD
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. I never expected to see 14" of snow and negative temps in Texas but here we are. Preparedness is key. Think what you need, and what the animals need BEFORE it happens and get ready. Ideally a generator makes things easier but I wasn't ready to purchase one yet so I am operating with the following methods and completely at the mercy of the power company as they turn it on and off, on and off, on and off!
1. HEAT: lp gas doesn't need electricity and is toasty warm. Fill bottles and have them on standby. Fill all you can afford in case the power outage lasts longer than expected. I have a plaque heater that is very efficient. It has a thermostat on it and comes on and off as needed. I keep plenty of thermometers in all the levels of the room (in my case on each shelf) to see the gradient of heat as it travels upward. Put your heat loving animals up high and your cooler ones in succession on lower levels. I have rodent feeders and Degus on the ground floor level and second shelf...It is in the 60'sF. Next two shelves house Leopard Geckos and my colubrid snakes. They are in the low to mid 80's. The top two shelves are my exotic snakes. They are 90 - 92F. When the power is on, fans circulate the heat and make the entire room comfortable. But when the power goes out, there is only natural convection so all the heat rises and you can utilize the structure just outlined to try and give the animals their appropriate temp levels to get through the emergency.
2. SET ALARMS: Nothing is more devastating than losing a pet due to negligence. Keeping up with the heat flow in this situation is a very hands on, tiresome process but one that keeps your animals ALIVE during an emergency. I use the 10 on, 20 off method with the heater. I turn the heat on low for 10 minutes. It spikes and hits my target temp quickly. I turn it back to pilot for 20 minutes and watch the temps slowly recede. I know this is very tiresome, but your pets lives DO DEPEND ON YOU. I have a sensor system in place and can monitor temps on my phone. I use SensorPush. You put a sensor at each level and use the phone to watch your zones. This system runs on internet or my phone data. I have a mobile hotspot so I activate that and use it to keep constant watch over the zones. Without the modern gizmos, just make sure you have nice, easy to read, simple thermometers placed on each level and you will manually check them every 10 to 30 minutes.
*While Heat saves their lives, excessive heat spikes can take them too. You have to remain diligent in keeping up with the intervals of watching the ebb and flow of the heat temps until the power comes back on. An ill timed nap could cause you to loose every animal you have due to excessive heat build up. Set those Alarms!
3. WATER: Fill as many jugs and containers as you can with fresh clean water. You need it for basic necessities for yourself, and you need it for the animals. Using LP gas heat, it robs the air of moisture so you will have to spritz them and their substrate and keep refilling water bowls more often to keep them from being too dry. Don't forget the ReptiSafe!
3. ANIMAL FOOD: Make sure you have everything you need ready to feed. IF you have veggie eating lizards, pre-chop and have their salads made in individual containers in the fridge so you can just grab and go. Dry pellet food eaters will require extra water so make sure you supplement them well. Avoid feeding snakes during a period of uncertain temps. Without the proper heat, they can't digest and regurgitation is a real possibility. We all know THAT is a terrible thing to happen so avoid the live or f/t feeders during the emergency. Keeping them warm and hydrated is the best course of action.
5. CLEANING: Due to the temp swings and changes in humidity, condensation is very likely causing bedding to become saturated. Diligent monitoring and cleaning to keep them fresh and clean is SO IMPORTANT. A wet habitat that gets cool is a horrible place for your retile or any other animals. My rodent feeders can suffer hypo and hyper thermia very quickly with the wrong conditions in their boxes. Have all your supplies gathered and trash bags at the ready. Clean, clean, clean. Their comfort is everything.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. I have lived and continue to live by these conditions during this arctic blast that has hit Texas. I'm operating with the power being periodically turned off by the electric company to conserve the draw...so I'm having to adjust every couple of hours. It was -2F this morning so I have no water from the tap. That is where the multitude of jugs come in handy!
Be Safe Out There & Take Care!