Bedding Part 2: Maintaining Your Bedding

Clean, healthy bedding is the key to having healthy birds, especially in the winter. Poorly maintained bedding can lead to many health issues such...
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  1. mymilliefleur
    ***Updated***

    Clean, healthy bedding is the key to having healthy birds, especially in the winter. Poorly
    maintained bedding can lead to many health issues such as respiratory problems, mite/lice
    infestations, higher susceptibility to frost bite, and a host of other health problems and
    deceases. Here are some quick guidelines to maintaining your bedding.

    • Ammonia build up
    Your birds delicate lung tissue is damaged when ammonia fumes in the coop exceed five-
    parts-per-million. The human nose cannot smell ammonia until it reaches Twenty five parts-
    per-million. Yes, that's right your birds lungs are being damaged before you can even detect
    any odder! Avoid this by adding a light layer of bedding every day or so. If you don't do deep
    bedding, them make shore you clean out and replace bedding on a regular basis. Throw down
    some scratch grains and let the chickens stir it up. It will help it break down faster and give your
    birds something to do.

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    • Dust and Ventilation
    Dust is very harmful to your birds and their health. A dusty and poorly ventilated coop can
    cause hosts of health issues. Keep your coop well ventilated. Many of us are tempted to build
    fully enclosed chicken coops, fully insulated and enclosed. This is not necessary if you live in
    a climate where the temperature does not drop below -10. My coops are uninsulated, open
    and airy, and my birds have done just fine in temps that low. Avoid overly dusty materials such
    as saw dust, and never use anything that is moldy or musty. Do not let manure collect any
    where (i.e tops of nest boxes, boards, roosts etc) as it can dry and produce dust. Remember,
    your birds are constantly moving around during the day, so dust and mold will never have
    chance to settle.

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    • Moisture
    Never use bedding that is damp or wet, as it will likely mold. Chickens housed in
    coops containing moist, poorly circulated air are far more likely to have frost bite issues
    then those housed in dry coops. Again, ventilation is very necessary. Keep your waters out in
    the runs to avoid spillage onto the bedding. This is especially important if you keep
    water fowl. If possible, have proper drainage around your coop to prevent water from running
    underneath.

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    • Muddy runs
    Avoid muddy runs and coops. I have seen many photos of chickens standing in two or three
    inch deep mud. Believe me, this is not pleasant or healthy for them. Chickens kept in these
    conditions often have scale problems, and are more susceptible to getting scaly leg mites.
    Put down a good layer of wood chips, straw, etc, preferably before your run becomes overly
    muddy. If possible, move your run and coop to a fresh spot every season or so.

    700.jpg

    • Freshen your bedding
    There are many natural ways to keep your bedding fresh and smelling great. In the spring and
    summer sprinkle fresh flowers on the floor and nest boxes. During the winter months collect
    and spread fresh grass clippings in your coop. Your birds will enjoy eating them and they will
    add a freshness to your coop. Also sprinkling dried herbs such as citronella (a natural pest
    repellent) is also very beneficial, and will help with pests.

    LL.jpg

    • Nest boxes
    You probably know how fun it is to reach into the nest box and pull out a hand full of fresh eggs,
    but nobody likes to get a dirty egg. Avoid this by cleaning out your nest boxes on a regular
    basis. Your birds prefer a clean, comfortable nests, if the nests you provide do not meet this
    description, than your hens will likely find another place to lay, and it may not be a place you
    will be able to find. Avoid an easter egg hunt every day by making sure your nest boxes are as
    clean and comfortable as possible.

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    Click here for part 1 of this article: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bedding-part-1-compareing-materials
    Special thanks to Mountain Peeps for letting my use her photos.
    If you have any question or comments feel free to post below!
    Thanks for reading.

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    Alan Boleware and Chicken Girl1 like this.

Comments

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  1. arrowti
    Our chickens get regular chips for bedding, our ducks get hay (they hay seems to stay cleaner, longer, with ducks).

    Thanks for the article!
  2. alexa009
    We use pine shavings in our coop and the chickens love it!
  3. ECarter1217
    thank you i really needed to know this Excellent article
  4. tarahharlin
    Great article! Thank you!
  5. rccola7
    Wonderful article, thank you!
  6. gusthebrowndog
    Thanks to mymilliefleur I will use shredder new paper for my chick. They will have a chance to get smart for I will us The Wall Street Journal that my friend gives me every bad. PP
  7. mymilliefleur
    I have used shredded news paper for chicks with no problems. I have found regular office paper to be to course for them though (not to mention the fear I have of them getting paper cuts on their delicate feet) but they have always done just fine with news paper. It's especially nice since I don't have to worry about shavings getting tracked all over the house when brooding chicks inside.
  8. gusthebrowndog
    Can I used shredded new paper in my brooder house for young chicks?I have a shredder and paper every day.PP
  9. mymilliefleur
    karen18, shredded paper sounds fine, I wouldn't use super glossy paper though. I have never used it myself, but have heard of people using news paper as bedding with great success. We raise red worms and feed them a large quantity of shredded paper, including office paper, and have never had a problem with it bothering the worms, so I'm sure it's fine for the chickens as well. I have considered using shredded feed sacks as bedding, since we have so many of them, that might be something I could try in the late spring/summer when other materials are scarce.
  10. karen18
    I've been using my shreded newspapers and white office paper as part of my bedding. Would you reccomend or discourage that?
    Awesome information - and much needed, Thanks!
  11. Kookapie
    Thanks mymilliefleur I got a bit confused about all the 'cons'. It seems as though there is no perfect solution :( It's just like keeping the kitchen clean and hygenic - ie constant!!
    Thanks also SNJchickens - I particularly like the idea of the kitty litter!! That is a suggestion I've not come across before. I will certainly give it a try!
  12. mymilliefleur
    Thanks for the comments and suggestions everyone! RoswellOrganic, I use certain materials seasonally, for example, right now I am using pine straw, which I try to rake up while it's dry, and than I keep a few buckets of it in the barn to use as back up while it's rainy, and than when the pine straw runs out, I use ether hay, wood chips, or straw depending on whats available at the present. Kookapie, Check out part 1 of this article, for more on nest box materials, and which to use. hfrink, That is one thing I haven't really found a way around. In my bantams coop, I have roosts which fold up, blocking the boxes, and keeping the birds from sleeping in them. The problem I had was getting out early enough to open the boxes before the hens started laying, and so I ended up with reduced production. What I do now, is take a small bucket of hay with me every couple days, and clean out the nests. That's simplest for me right now, especially since I have half a dozen pullets that enjoy sleeping in the boxes every night. Hope this helps.
  13. hfrink
    Any suggestions to keep them from pooping in the nesting boxes
  14. DDRanch
    Excellent article with clear descriptions and explanations. Thank you for this very useful and important information. Pictures are great too.
  15. SNJchickens
    Excellent overview of bedding materials. I just built (well, DH designed and built) a new coop with proper roosts and nest boxes. I bed the main area with pine shavings,
    The nest boxes have an under layer of shavings and a top layer of hay. One of my hens dislikes the hay and will pick out every bit of it before laying her precious egg.
    Using 2x3 lumber to separate the under roost area from the main coop area, I bed with plain clay kitty litter beneath the roosts. Cleaning is a breeze! Every morning I scoop out the overnight accumulation of poo and bury it in the compost heap.
    The run has a roof to keep things dry (snow free.) On the far end I've piled bamboo branches cut from my future tomato stakes. This acts as a wind break and gives the hens an interesting place to play. (I'd hate to have bored chickens!) The main area of the run is bedded with hay. Each morning I sprinkle in some mixed bird seed: just enough to keep the girls intrigued. Once a week I rake up the hay and compost it. A $6 bale of hay will last the entire winter.
  16. Kookapie
    Thank you for an interesting article. Did I miss seeing what material you would recommend for lining nesting boxes?
  17. RoswellOrganic
    Very helpful, specially for a newbie. One question please, how do you keep the materials dry and mold free to use? For example, keeping the pine straw, dried grass and leaves that are available in the fall dry and mold free to use during the year?
  18. mymilliefleur
    Thanks everyone. Glad you liked it!
  19. Brookliner
    Great article.
  20. Book Em Danno25
  21. TamingMaster
  22. familyfarm1
    LOVE it, very helpful. Oh and great pictures!
  23. mymilliefleur
  24. Mountain Peeps
    Excellent job!!!

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