The Truth About Cedar Shavings and Chickens: Are They Really Toxic?

Are cedar shavings really toxic to chickens? My grandson bought several bags and spread them on the coop floor and in the nesting boxes.

As a backyard chicken owner, I can relate to wanting to provide the best possible environment for my feathered friends. When my grandson recently bought several bags of cedar shavings and spread them on the coop floor and in the nesting boxes, I couldn’t help but wonder if they were safe for my chickens.

There seems to be some debate on whether or not cedar shavings are toxic to chickens. Some chicken owners swear by using cedar shavings, while others adamantly warn against it. So, what’s the truth? Let’s dive in and explore the topic further.

The Debate over Cedar Shavings

The debate over the use of cedar shavings in chicken coops has been a topic of discussion among chicken keepers for some time. While some people swear by the use of cedar shavings, others are convinced that they are harmful to chickens. So, what is the truth about cedar shavings, and are they really toxic to chickens?

The truth is that cedar shavings can be harmful to some animals, including birds. The natural oils and aromatic compounds found in cedar wood, such as phenols, can be toxic to birds if they inhale them in large quantities over an extended period. This can cause respiratory problems and even lead to death in severe cases.

However, not all cedar is created equal, and the type of cedar used is essential when considering its toxicity level. Eastern red cedar, for example, is known to be particularly harmful to chickens and other small animals. Meanwhile, other types of cedar, such as western red cedar, have lower toxicity levels and can be used in chicken coops without issue.

It is important to note that some chicken keepers have used cedar shavings in their chicken coops without experiencing any problems. However, this does not mean that cedar shavings are safe for chickens, as every chicken’s respiratory system is different, and some may be more sensitive to the toxins in cedar than others.

The best way to ensure your chickens’ safety is to avoid using cedar shavings altogether and opt for safer alternatives, such as pine shavings or straw. If you do choose to use cedar shavings, make sure to use them in well-ventilated areas and monitor your chickens for any signs of respiratory distress.

The debate over cedar shavings’ safety for chickens continues, and while some chicken keepers may have had positive experiences using cedar shavings, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid using them altogether. Respiratory problems are a significant concern for chickens, and it is important to prioritize their health and well-being above all else.

The Risk of Respiratory Problems

The risk of respiratory problems in chickens is a significant concern when it comes to using cedar shavings. This is due to the aromatic compounds present in cedar, which can be harmful to the lungs and airways of the birds. When the chickens inhale these compounds, it can cause a range of respiratory issues such as coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. The condition can even worsen and lead to respiratory distress or death in severe cases.

It’s not just the respiratory system that cedar shavings can negatively affect. Cedar oil can also be absorbed through the skin, causing skin irritation or chemical burns. That’s why it’s crucial to handle cedar shavings with care and avoid direct contact with the chicken’s skin and feathers.

If you are using cedar shavings, it’s important to keep a close eye on your chickens for any signs of respiratory distress or skin irritation. In case of any adverse reaction, immediately remove the cedar shavings and seek veterinary care. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your chickens.

Choosing the Right Bedding Material

While cedar shavings may be okay to use in some situations, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid using them altogether. Instead, consider using pine shavings or straw as bedding material in your chicken coop.

Pine shavings are a popular choice among chicken owners due to their affordability and ease of use. They are also relatively safe for chickens and can help control odors in the coop. Straw is another option that provides excellent insulation during cold weather and is readily available at most feed stores.

However, be sure to use caution when using straw as bedding material during the summer months. Straw can retain heat and moisture, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold. Make sure to change the straw bedding frequently to prevent the buildup of bacteria and to keep your chickens healthy and happy.


In conclusion, while some types of cedar may be okay to use in chicken coops, it is best to avoid using cedar shavings altogether. The risk of respiratory problems and skin irritation in chickens is too high to justify using cedar shavings as a bedding material. Instead, opt for pine shavings or straw to keep your chickens cool, dry, and healthy. Remember, a little extra caution can go a long way in keeping your chickens happy and healthy!

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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