Emergency Weather Prepping for Pets and Livestock

It's the middle of the night and you hear a tornado siren ring out across your town. There's little time to seek shelter, much less make preparations. How can you prepare your animals for dangerous weather?

This is a difficult scenario to imagine, especially for someone with large livestock. How can you prepare multiple head of livestock, plus smaller animals, like your dogs and cats in the precious seconds needed to take shelter?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Making those preparations now can be the difference between loss of life and recovering animals.

Small Animals

Sometimes, our pets have their own ideas of storm preparation. Scared animals can sometimes choose to follow their own ideas of shelter, and in an emergency situation, you won't have time to search for them, as you'll need to take shelter, yourself.

Microchips are always recommended by vets and shelters for recovering pets, but here's the thing. Unless the vet/shelter who recovered your pet just so happens to have the compatible reader to the brand of chip your pet has, or a universal reader, the chip may not scan properly. Also, not all chips can be universally registered. Chip companies are working to solve this problem, but in the meantime, there's still a possibility a microchip cannot be scanned. This is why other forms of identification are important.

Other forms of visible identification will also prevent well-meaning samaritans from keeping or rehoming lost pets, especially in areas where there are many strays. While most people post about missing pets on Facebook, it is very easy for someone to assume pets are simply strays or send out a post in a group the owner is not in.

Not everyone brings missing pets to shelters, or makes significant effort in finding their owner, but a tag/collar makes it easy for someone to send a text or call.

Dogs, Cats and other Small Pets

If your four-legged friends don't wear collar all of the time, I suggest keeping an emergency collars in an emergency bag inside of your shelter/room. On their collar, add a tag with at least two phone numbers, plus an email address. This provides multiple forms of contact, should pets have their own ideas of seeking shelter. I also suggest writing a phone number on the inside of the collar in permanent marker.

Keeping records is important, not only for recovering pet, but for tracking vaccination, registration and health records, should the original records be destroyed, somehow. These are the templates I use for my dogs.

Apple AirTags are also a solution to tracking a missing pet. They're easy to clip onto collars and track using your phone. Amazon also sells clips for AirTags for pet collars or other uses.

Otherwise, remember to add in some food/water for pets in your emergency bag. Personally, for my pets, I like to keep the small packets of food on hand. They store a little easier than the cans, and take up less space. Don't forget to include medications, especially anxiety medication, if it's something your pet needs.

There are other pet trackers available, but from what I've found, the AirTags are the smallest and most user-friendly.

For even smaller pets, like mice, I suggest preparing a go box for them. Depending on your pet, these small containers, pre-prepared with a water bottle, a baggie of food and bedding(if applicable,) can make it easy to grab your pets and move them, or pre-move them to a safe place when severe weather is expected.

Large Livestock

Livestock can get a little tricky, since you can't realistically bring animals like cows and horses into your storm shelter with you. Of course, leaving them closed up in a barn can also spell disaster in tornados. This means preparing animals for recovery, instead.

In my experience, my livestock have always sheltered themselves better than I ever could. Livestock are meant to live outside, meaning they have mostly retained their outdoor instincts. Leaving animals locked inside of a barn during tornados or hurricanes can mean they have no way out when the storm demolishes their barn, or they injure themselves by panicking when the storm passes by.

This is just in my experience, and you should always do what you feel is right and the best for your animals in emergency situations.


I'm going to cover horses, first, since a lot of the tips here also apply to other livestock. These tips can also apply to other livestock not included here, like donkeys, alpacas and whatnot.

Whenever there are severe storm warnings out, I generally leave my barn(s) open, but open the gate, to allow my horses out into the largest field I have. They take shelter accordingly. They almost always find the the lowest part of the field, stand and wait the storm out. I have never had a horse willingly take shelter in a barn from a storm, even though they have had full access.

Personally, I don't turn my horses out with halters on, especially in emergencies. Some write their number on the inside of their horse's halter and turn them out with it, but I've witnessed one too many halter-related strangulations to feel comfortable with this. Break-away halters are a thing, but honestly, I've never had a horse that kept one on more than a day without breaking it. On an off-topic, writing your number on the inside of halters is a great idea for many other emergencies, such as barn fires or trailer accidents.

Record-keeping is important for horses as well. I like to keep detailed records on my horses, so in the event of an emergency, I(or someone working for me) can access these as a reference. These are the forms I use. I keep them in a binder with my horse's coggins papers and health certificates from the vet. I have a folder for each horse, with this form and registration papers in sheet protectors in the middle. I keep the current health records in the front pocket, the old ones in the back.

With the past severe storm warning, I tried to write my number in permanent marker on one of my horse's hooves. It took a few steps through the wet grass for the marker to dissolve. A shout-out to my old man for so patiently standing while I scribbled on his hoof, while the others ran around like it was the apocalypse. Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys.

The best idea I've found is to braid a cow's ear tag into their mane or tail. Ear tags are made to last and made for identification. I like to braid one into the mane and one into the tail for double identification. Make sure you get the ones with the larger hole, like these. Don't forget your marker! Also, I suggest pre-filling them and snapping a few rubber bands over each tag. This is time-saving and prevents searching for a rubber band for the braid. You can buy rubber bands in bulk, here.

With these, if trees fall on the fences or they find their way out, there's identification for the sheriff's office or neighbors to find you. Unlike dogs, people don't generally want to keep a stray animal that eats like a horse around. Most of the time.

Another option I saw floating around social media is to use of one these to braid an Apple AirTag into their mane or tail. Although I haven't personally tried it, I love the idea! This would also be super beneficial for trail rides and whatnot should horse/rider lose one another.

Branding is always an option, if you live in a brand state. Otherwise, local authorities and neighbors may not know how to locate your brand. Again, microchipping is also an option, but chipping horses has the same issues as small animals. It's also not unheard of for chips to travel in horses. A conversation that would be worth having with a vet, I think.

Doesn't branding hurt? No! Freeze branding is a painless process. Here's a video on that if you'd like to learn more. Freeze branding works on (most) all livestock and even dogs.


Since cattle don't have luxurious manes and tails, most use an ear tag for ID. Most ear tags are just numbers, but again, you can purchase blank tags and write your information on them. Tagging cows is a simple process, if you know where to put the tag in. If not, ask an experienced cattleman or your veterinarian for help.

Here's an article on tagging cow's ears.

With a personalized tag, you can always call around to sale barns and let them know you're missing a cow with your information on the tag. It's easier to go to your neighbor, and tell them you've spotted your black cow with the yellow ID tag(with your information on it) than to try to figure out which of their black cows with the yellow tag is yours.

For larger herds, the number tags work well with record keeping. It's easier to claim cows when you have record of ownership that match up with said cow. Record-keeping forms, like this one, come in handy for this.

Freeze branding also works on cows, but again, if you don't live in a brand state, it faces similar problems as microchipping. It does work well as an identification marker, though. (Have you seen a cow with this brand?)

Along with the methods I mentioned above, we've always just turned cows out the same way we did horses. We leave the barn open, but they never choose to go in. They always lay down at the top of a hill or down in a holler.


Our goats are the one animal that has historically chosen to stay in the barn, even though we offered them the choice to stay in or out. Goats are similar to cattle, as they can carry ear tags or brands, but my favorite option for goat ID is similar to dogs- a collar.

Goats can wear collars in the same way dogs and cats can, with a number written on the inside. I wouldn't recommend an actual *tag* for goats, because, well, goats. They'll probably eat it.

Chickens and Rabbits

Depending on how many need shelter, the best way I've found to shelter feathered-friends in severe weather is by either allowing them to find shelter themselves, similar to the way we do horses(leaving coops and barns open for them) or by using dog crates and moving them to a more safe area, like a garage.

Personally, if I had chickens that weren't outdoors the majority of the time, couldn't fly well or were a delicate breed(like silkies) I would probably make plans to do this. In my opinion, I would feel comfortable adding two hens to one large dog crate, and the small crates for individual rabbits or roosters. Of course, this isn't for permanent or long-term housing, it is only for temporarily sheltering from severe weather. Of course, for animals that don't fly, depending on your set-up, you could always just go for a play pen.

Clip on food bowls and water bottles are great additions. For extra preparation, I would add in a five-gallon bucket with enough feed for twenty-four hours, and a five-gallon jug of water.

Since it's a little more difficult to track each individual chicken in a flock, I prefer to keep track of the flock as a whole. That's what these templates are for.

Record Keeping

This is so important for recovery of animals. I recommend having an identification form for each one of your animals. I personally keep mine in a binder, but I recommend keeping one at home and one in another, separate location, like a bank box, scanned into a cloud or somewhere safe. In complete disaster, this helps preserve records and not only will help with recovery, but insurance claims and other important information you'll need post-disaster(like microchip numbers, registration numbers, identification markings, names of medications and more.)

These are the forms I like to use. It is preferred to paste a picture of your animal in the bottom section, but just drawing in identification marks is helpful as well. It may be tempting to throw in a cute picture, but I suggest including clear photos from both the right and left side, one from the front, back and specifically any identifying marks that could be used. Paper clip these photos to this form.

We sell these forms in our shop, use code APPALACHIAN for 50% off!

These forms also keep track of things like birthdates, vaccination records, identification numbers(microchip #'s or tag #') and other important information about each animal.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what is best for you, your animals and your situation. These are only things I've learned in my years of owning animals in severe weather, anything from hurricanes and windstorms to tornados.

That's it for today, everyone! What do you do in severe weather with your animals? Please don't forget to like and share, because this keeps Our Appalachian Homestead up and running! Let's also remember to keep those impacted by the tornado in Kentucky in our thoughts and prayers. Happy homesteading!

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Resources: https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/high-tech-identifying-lost-pets-microchips#:~:text=No.,able%20to%20read%20the%20data.

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