Just when it started to feel as though the first signs of spring were on their way, we have been plunged back into the depths of winter.

Wildlife can find cold weather particularly hard at this time of year as they have used up their body reserves and have little to fall back on. In winter, birds may have difficulty finding normal food. An extra titbit from your kitchen will help to keep them going.

If you have a pond, make sure you check it every day for ice, as toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond. These may kill fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom. If a pond freezes over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to gently melt a hole in the ice. Never tip boiling water straight onto the pond or break the ice with force, as this can harm or even kill any fish living there.

Keep a close eye on outdoor pets, such as guinea pigs and rabbits. Put extra bedding in their home and be prepared to move them into a shed or unused garage for extra shelter whilst the weather is cold. Don’t house small animals or birds in greenhouses as they can be prone to extreme changes in temperature. Caution must be taken if small animals or birds are housed in conservatories – they must be maintained at a suitable temperature (i.e. heating may be required) in the winter and sufficiently cool and well ventilated in the summer.

Try to maintain a regular routine with your dog. You may not feel like taking your dog for a walk on dark wintry evenings, but the exercise will keep your pet happy and healthy and will help to keep you fit as well! Always wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible when walking near roads in the dark. And don’t forget your pets too – fit your dog with a reflective collar.

If horses and ponies are kept outside during the winter they must have access to shelter at all times. They also need a constant supply of fresh water (check that ice hasn’t formed on it) and some horses my need a rug to protect them against the cold and wet. Extra food will be needed too, as winter grazing provides very little nourishment.