about growing straw for litter...

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by delfargo, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. i know wood shavings seem to be the litter of choice, but i have access to all the straw i would need for about $2 a bale (as compared to the $5 they charge you at the supply store for a much smalled bale of the wood shavings) from a farmer down the road. however, that got me thinking, i've got alot of yard here at my little 4 acre "farm" in grass that i am mowing for no particular reason. i was thinking of planting a small plot of wheat and cutting my own straw for the coop litter. i'd like to know if anyone else has done this. i'm not sure where i would get the seed or how exactly to grow it or cut it, but plan to start researching all of this a.s.a.p., just curious if anyone out there in backyard chickenland is doing the ol' "grow your own" thing. thanx for any info you might have on this.

  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    The hard part isn't growing it, it's cutting and baling-or-otherwise-stacking/storing it and keeping it mold-free through the process.

    Honestly, if you want "free", just let some of your existing grass grow up tall, and then cut and dry and store that as bedding-grade hay. If you have coarse ditch grass (reed canarygrass) on part of your property, that will work even better and produce a more strawlike product if cut when it is mature. None of these will be very absorbant or easy-to-handle unless you have a way for chopping them before using -- the same is somewhat true of normal baled straw too, though.

    The thing is, it is really not easy to process and store homemade hay or straw in a way that avoids mold. Farmers know what they're doing [​IMG] Basically you have to time it right with the weather; usually rake it over once or several times so that all parts of the mown swaths dry out well; and then find a way of transporting and storing it that does not result in moisture being reintroduced. Unbaled hay or straw, just stacked or piled or bagged, takes up MUCH more room than an actual BALE of it does (because the baling machinery compresses it considerably, in a way you can't by hand).

    Remember, too, that the bales of wood shavings sold for bedding are compressed *too* -- they expand to several times their volume when opened. And are somewhat more absorbant, and a lot easier for most people to work with and clean (especially spot-clean), than straw is. So the difference may not be as great as you think.

    My recommendation would be that you try making grass hay this year -- just leave a plot unmown til it gets as tall as it's going to, then mow it, dry it out, and see what you can do in the way of collecting and storing it. Leave it til February or so, then see what kind of quality you've got there in terms of mold-free-ness. If you are happy with the unmoldiness of the result, you can consider planting something specifically for straw next year -- your local feedstore should be able to sell you a small quantity of wheat, oats or rye (the three most common straw crops). You will have to think about the fact that you're almost certainly going to end up with the heads of grain in there with the straw -- this is good for the chickens, feed-wise, but can create a serious storage problem vis-a-vis rats and mice getting in and going to town.

    Good luck, have fun,

  3. 95yj

    95yj Songster

    Nov 25, 2009
    Central Vermont
    going through all the trouble to grow it bale it etc... just isn't worth saving $2 a bale, i have to get mine from the feed store, something like $10-11 per bale, count yourself lucky. I'm not sure how many bales you use but unless its some ridiculous number just support your local farmer.
  4. thanx for the input pat & yj. you both brought up some great points. and now that i've thought about it a bit more, i think i'll stick with the farmer down the road or maybe even stay with the wood shavings bales, which i am useing now in the brooder. the wood shavings ARE easier to deal with, even if more expensive.
    the "grow your own" idea was simply that - an idea. you know how it goes...you're laying in bed at night and the little light-bulb goes on above your head and you think "yeah, that's a great idea". then, later, you realize "maybe not such a great idea after all". so, thanx again for your help.
  5. Zahboo

    Zahboo Simply Stated

    Feb 3, 2009
    Hope Mills, NC
    I used straw because it was way cheaper. But the smell, flies, and mold was way worse with straw. Also, the chickens would scratch through it and there would be bare floor and then huge straw mounds.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by