Chicken bedding, sometimes referred to as litter, is material that is placed on the chicken floor coop to aid in absorbing moisture from chicken droppings, and provide a cushion for chickens and a soft surface for eggs to drop. It will absorb any spilled water and ensure that you collect cleaner eggs. It also provides warmth from the cold coop floor.
A secondary benefit of using chicken bedding is that it provides a surface for the chickens to scratch and can sometimes act as a dust bath. In this article, we will look into what to use for chicken bedding. We seek to answer questions on how much bedding to use, when to change it and how to manage it.
A friend was surprised at how my chicken coop was clean and dry. They had struggled with wet coop floors for a long. They were astounded when I told them I do not clean the coop. The secret is in the chicken bedding. All that I do is layer it up for several months. When it’s all dirty and starts to smell, I clean it out and replace it with a new clean fresh batch.
Chickens droppings contain nitrogen. In wet conditions, it provides the ideal environment for bacteria. In addition to possibly causing diseases in chickens, the bacteria also aid in the decomposition of the nitrogen in chicken manure into ammonia. Ammonia is a pungent-smelling gas that has adverse effects on the chickens’ respiratory systems. This is where chicken bedding comes in. To keep the chicken droppings dry which minimizes the bacteria action in the droppings hence controlling the formation of ammonia gas.
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Factors to Consider When Selecting Chicken Bedding.
There are several factors to consider when getting chicken bedding. These are
- Absorption rate.
- Health and Safety.
- Type of Chicken.
You will need to select a bedding material that is readily available in your area. This is because of the need to keep changing the bedding once it gets messy. Materials that are available close to you are also less costly than bedding material that comes from other regions. You might even get some bedding materials available for free as others seek to dispose of them.
The primary purpose of bedding materials is to absorb any moisture in the coop. Selecting a bedding material that has a fast absorption rate will ensure that your chicken coop is free from the moisture that leads to ammonia buildup. If you get material that gets cloggy quickly, you will need to change it quite often.
Health and Safety
Your number one priority will be the health and safety of your chickens. You do not what to get bedding materials that will harm your chickens. The material should not produce dust that can lead to respiratory health issues. It should not have any chemicals that can harm your chickens when it comes into contact with their body. It should not cause any issues if ingested. Chicks tend to try to eat anything as they are learning how to identify food.
Bedding material should be free of scents that might harm your birds or you. Some materials have smells that dissipate in a few days. This is true when the coop is well-aerated. Odors work in such a way that you actually breathe in small particles of the substance you are smelling. This means that your chickens will breathe in small particles of the smelly bedding materials. Irrespective of the material, make sure that there is enough air flowing around the coop.
The bedding material that you use should be affordable in order to make keeping chicken enjoyable. Remember you will need to change the material regularly in order to keep the coop fresh, your chicken happy and your eggs clean. This calls for balance when making the decision on bedding materials. You do not want cheap material that will harm your chickens but also you do not want to break the bank. Remember there are creative ways of getting bedding materials almost for free.
Type of Chickens
Some chickens tend to release more droppings than others. This depends on their metabolism rate. Meat birds such as the cornish cross will produce more droppings in a given span of time than heritage breeds. This is because of their fast digestion rate as their digestive systems work to turn feed into meat at a fast rate. For these birds, you will need bedding materials that absorb moisture at a fast rate.
Types of Chicken Bedding
There are different types of bedding for chicken. While you can use anything that fits the criteria for bedding, the following chicken beddings are the most popular.
- Shredded Newspapers
- Wood Shavings
- Saw Dust
Newspapers make excellent bedding for chickens. Though purchased for news, they lose their value after they are read. This makes them basically free. Using newspapers is a great way of recycling as they can go straight into your compost bin once you clean out the coop. They provide comfortable beddings that do not cling to the feet of chickens.
Newspapers should be shredded before you use them as bedding. It would not be practical to use full-length newspapers as they would get wet fast. The only time I use newspaper without shredding is in the brooder when I have young chicks. This is advisable since they cannot tell apart feed from beddings that have fine pieces like wood shavings.
Note that due to their weight, the shredded newspaper can easily be moved to one corner of the coop on a windy day. This is if your coop is not designed to prevent drafts. It is not advisable to use them on nesting boxes as chickens will easily push them out of the nest box or into a corner.
Shredded newspapers will also leave some ink on the eggs. This is due to the fact that eggs come out with a liquid protective coating known as the bloom. It is wet for a few seconds before drying out. Little pieces of newspaper will stick to eggs and drop when the bloom dries out. They leave some artistic-looking ink marks on the eggs.
Chunks of chopped cardboard can make great bedding for your chickens. Cardboard is a popular bedding for horses and works well in a coop. It lasts for a long time as they absorb moisture quickly and dry fast.
If chopped cardboard can work for horses, it can work better for chickens since chicken droppings are not as wet as the urine in horse stalls. When it is time to clean out the coop, you can safely put the cardboard pieces in your compost bin or worm bit for onward recycling.
One advantage of chopped cardboard as chicken bedding is that it doe not get dusty like wood chippings or grass clippings. It also has no pollen. This makes it very safe for the respiratory health of your chickens.
You will need to turn cardboard bedding once in a while. This is because chickens might not turn them well as the chunks of cardboard are heavier than other types of bedding like wood chips and shredded newspapers.
Wood shavings are created when the wood is dried and planned. They can be any wood, but pine and cedar shavings are the most popular. Wood shavings can absorb water twice their weight, making them one of the most preferred types of chicken bedding.
Wood shavings have little or no dust. In fact, store-bought wood shavings go through a screening process where the dust is removed. Pieces of wood are also removed to ensure there are no sharp splinters that might harm your chickens. You can get wood shavings from local contractors cheaply because they have to dispose of them safely. Ensure it does not contain sawdust and also check for any splinters.
One of the main reasons poultry keepers prefer wood shavings is that it does not fly around the coop and is easy to clean. I usually sweep off my wood shavings into buckets and sacks. They make a great addition to the compost bin or worm bin.
Straw is a popular material to use a chicken bedding due to its availability. It is made from dried stalks of grain plants such as wheat, buckwheat, rye, and oats among many other grain plants. The stalks are chopped into smaller prices and used as bedding. Straw works well as a bedding material because of its ability to control temperature and is nearly dust free.
If you use straw as a bedding material, you will need to clean it out often because it gets dirty quickly and does not easily release moisture. Regular cleaning might be the price you pay for the low price and availability of straw. It is easily biodegradable and makes a great addition to your compost pit or worm bin.