Brooding chicks on sand... will they eat too much grit?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Bellatrixed, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been searching through old threads on this forum, and I have found two things:
    1) Lots of people say it's okay to brood chicks on sand, and
    2) Lots of people suggest giving chicks sand as grit.

    So... when I get my chicks, I would *really* like to be able to use sand in their brooder. The reason for this is because I'd love to be able to scoop it out with a reptile litter scoop several times a day to keep the smell down; I feel it would be much more economical than other bedding options. But I'm concerned about the possibility of them eating too much sand if chicks apparently enjoy sand as grit.

    Any opinions here? Am I just worrying too much, and they instinctively know how much sand to eat? lol
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I consider it worrying too much. When hens take their chicks out into the world to raise, that's generally on dirt. They don’t eat too much.

    There is often a big difference in what can happen and what will absolutely happen each and every time, especially in this case. You are dealing with living animals so no one can give you a 100% guarantee of what will happen. If you do a web search on “impacted crop” you will find a few cases where that can happen to chickens from eating too much sand, though it seems emu are the ones that do it more regularly or at least have been studied more. It is also possible for chicks raised on wood shavings to eat enough wood shavings to cause them problems, yet many many people raise the chicks on wood shavings with absolutely no problems.

    What I’d suggest is spread paper towels, a cloth towel, something like that on top of the sand for a couple of days, until they get used to eating their regular feed. Then uncover the sand. They will instinctively eat some sand for grit, but the odds are tremendous they will stop before they eat too much.
     
  3. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for your reply, Ridgerunner! :) I figured that was the case, but well... I figured better be safe than sorry lol. I was planning on putting the paper towels on the sand for the first few days, so that's great to know it should help prevent the worst of the problems.

    It's kind of funny, because I've brooded so many baby chicks in my life, but now that it's been so long since I had them I am sort of obsessing over doing it "right." [​IMG] I never really worried much about it other than giving them feed, water, and heat and had no real issues, but now that I'm actually researching everything that can go wrong I am determined to be the best chick momma I can be I suppose!
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Information overload gets a lot of people. There are a whole lot of things that can happen. A plane could fall out of the sky and bop you on the head. That happened to someone not that long ago, but I don't run around worrying about it happening to me.

    Dad used to raise chicks on the back porch in a cardboard box with a 60 watt bulb for heat. They were fed corn meal and nothing else for about three weeks, then let loose around the chicken coop to fend for themselves. No more corn meal and no more attention. It was early summer so the nights were not that cold.

    All chicks need is food, water, heat, and some protection from the elements. For most of us they need predator protection. Anything beyond those absolute basics is pretty much personal preference.

    So enjoy them and take reasonable precautions, but don't obsess over it. You sound like you will do fine.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  5. WildBilly

    WildBilly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Bellatrixed, i have chickens and when they were chicks we put them in a 2 foot tall and 4 foot wide bin and gave the chicks pine shavings for bedding, chick starter from a local store, water, and a heat lamp. Great birds noww
     
  6. Wil SC

    Wil SC Out Of The Brooder

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    I started an experiment this week based on reading about the benefits of using sand. But instead of sand I bought a bag of 1/4" pea gravel. It's large enough that the chicks can't eat it, but small enough that it makes a nice level surface for them to walk on. It's also rounded so there's no sharp corners. There was some smaller grit In the bag since it was just a large landscaping bag, but I sifted it all out to avoid them eating the sand.

    My brooder is 5ft x 2ft. I split it 50/50 pea gravel on one side and pine shavings on the other side so I could have a standard surface to use as a control. So far they seem to show no preference (2 day old quail chicks). The big advantage of the gravel is I can remove and clean it and reuse it pretty much forever so there's no expense for wood chips.

    It's still early in the test but they really seem to be fine with the gravel. They run around on it and don't seem to even notice the transition from the wood shavings. Also the poop just works its way into all the little cracks so they aren't getting any on their feet that I can see.
     
  7. mandelyn

    mandelyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I use paper towels the first week in a smaller brooder, then switch them into a larger area with play sand. Other types of sand have proven to be way dusty, so I always get the washed play sand. It's so easy to tend, and cheaper. If I don't have any more chicks coming for awhile, I add the sand to the garden to aid in drainage, since we're clay based.

    My favorite way to brood! You can use it over and over, just keep cleaning the poo out. When you're done, till it into the garden.
     
  8. jak2002003

    jak2002003 Overrun With Chickens

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    All my chicks are raised on sand - its made up a different sized pieces.

    My chicken run outside has a floor covering of builders sand and river sand.

    I never had any problems with chicks or chickens eating too much to make them ill.

    My first chicks were raised on paper towels. They did eat a lot of them too, they would splash their water all over the floor and mix in the chicks food and then eat the lot. After many times of this I switched to the sand (that I just scooped up from the chicken run). Now I always use the sand.
     
  9. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for the replies and suggestions everyone! Sounds like sand it is. :) I have cats and have been scooping litter boxes two times a day for nearly 20 years, so I figure scooping a chicken brooder should be super easy compared to cleaning out dirty sawdust/wood shavings! I brooded on shavings last time I had chickens and the smell always got to me. I'm really hopeful the sand will keep the odor down since they will have to be inside for at least a month--and we have no good area in the house to put them that is totally separate from people. Is brooding chickens in a living room a health risk for salmonella particles in the air or anything? I know they'll make dust, which is fine considering how often I dust and vacuum already (due to my long-haired dogs... seriously, I get a thick layer of dust on furniture in 2 days) but I just don't want it to be unhealthy for people to be in that environment.

    I am also planning on putting sand on the floor of their coop. I just have to figure out how to make a longer scoop. I'm considering putting wire mesh around a pitchfork, lol. But that's a while off still!
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don’t know your conditions, but my brooder is in the coop. With the dust they make, I wouldn’t stay married if I tried to raise them in the house. As long as you have a good draft guard, good ventilation, can protect them from the adult chickens and predators, and can keep one area of the brooder warm, they’ll do fine.

    When a broody raises her chicks, she does not warm up the entire county. She provides a small warm space for them to go when they get cold so they can warm up. I use the same principle. I don’t care how cold the rest of the brooder gets as long as one area is warm enough and there are cooler areas so they can decide where they want to be. Mine play all over the brooder, warm and cold areas, but usually sleep pretty close to the heat.

    I think the risk of salmonella from the brooder raised chicks is pretty darn low, especially if you wash your hands after you handle stuff in there. Otherwise there would be a lot of posts about it on this forum and they are just not here. The dust comes from skin flaking off, bits of feathers and down breaking off, and the stuff they are scratching. With dry sand, wood shavings, about anything you use for bedding you will get some dust stirred up. If they have any dried poop in there, that gets scratched up too.

    If someone is allergic to chickens or any of that, yeah health issues could be pretty possible. But I doubt any diseases are going to be spread to humans from those chicks. Most microbes that can harm people or animals are host specific. You are not likely to get any diseases from your chickens any more than from your dogs.
     

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