Friday, December 19, 2014

The best bedding for your fowl

What's the best type of bedding or litter for my birds?

There are several choices for bedding your chickens. The amount you use is based on trial and error with your chickens' habits. Chickens have the same bedding in summer and winter. Farmers typically shovel out their pens in spring. A layer of lime is optional, but it dries the coop out a bit and helps reduce the smell.

Pine shavings. One of the best. Very absorbent and easy to clean out. Usually the same price as a bale of straw.
Straw. Works fine. Tends to mat down. Easy to pitch with a fork or shovel.
Shredded newspaper. Tends to pack down with the manure, but is great if it’s free.
Tree leaves. They aren’t that absorbent but again they are free.

Things to stay away from:
Hay. The chickens like to pick though it, but the hay hangs together when you clean the pen. Making it very hard. Usually you only use hay once unless it’s chopped.
Cedar shavings. The cedar is not good for poultry.
Sawdust. It gets into their “nose” and causes all types of problems. Plus they can eat it and plug up their crop.

Peat Moss. I haven't tried this, but it seems dusty.

A method to try:

Deep litter method. This is where you do not clean the pen but keep adding bedding until spring. If you smell ammonia it’s probably from around the waterer. Just clean that part up. 
Sixty years ago we used deep litter without knowing it. Back then everyone cleaned their pens in the spring (whether it's needed it or not).

Whatever method you use, once you've cleaned your coop put your bedding in the compost pile. It's probably best to position the pile so your neighbor's yard isn't directly downwind.

As always, ask further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

photo credit: xupower via photopin cc