Changed shavings-can hardly breathe! Affect chickens?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by luvmygirlsinAK, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. luvmygirlsinAK

    luvmygirlsinAK Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    North Pole, Ak
    We just changed the pine shavings in the coop. This is not the first time to change it, and we used the exact same pine shavings from Wal-Mart, having purchased 8 bags of it at the same time. Last time it was changed, there were no problems with breathing, other than when we actually were in the midst of cleaning it out. This time, there is the distinct smell of pine, which I thought would be normal. What isn't normal, is that I can hardly breathe while in the coop. My nose runs terribly and I have to clear my throat constantly. I feel like my chest is going to burst while being in there. We opened one of the windows, and tried to "wave" the door while it was open to "wave" some fresh air in.

    My (grown) daughter put the DE in with the shavings this time, so I have no way of knowing how much she used. Just in case it was too much, I just now put another layer of pine shavings down, hoping that would do the trick. It doesn't. While it was close to bedtime, but not quite, one of the polish hens was roosting (the others hadn't hopped up yet, it wasn't quite time yet.) and was apparently sleeping, I think, her head kept nodding like she was going to sleep, and jerking awake-or was she dying? This was not usual for her. Is it affecting her and will the others have problems with it? When we were in the midst of changing it out, I caught (saw)one of the pullets "roosting" on the edge of the sand box container with her head tucked under her wing. This was before my daughter put the DE in the shavings. Highly unusual to see a hen do this, at a very unusual time of day for that to happen. It was 4:00 p.m. when we finished changing out the bedding. The other hens and roosters are acting fine.

    Any ideas? And how imperative is it that I take action, and if it is very imperative, what do I do? I do have the option of rounding them up and somehow finding enough boxes, dog crates, etc. for them to spend the night in our unfinished addition. Should I do this? Am really concerned.
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    If the smell is strong enough to bother you, it's probably best to get them out. Perhaps that bag of shavings wasn't as dried from the factory or the tree that went in was particularly strong. Or at worse, something other than pine was mixed in to the bag? If it is incredibly dusty or the pine smell is overwhelming, I would find a place to let all the shavings air out before putting them back in the coop to see if it helps. Cedar is strong smelling, and the reason it is bad is because of the phenols that irritate the air ways. Over time, if not well ventilated, this can cause an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

    Really, it's your call. If it's so strong you can't stand it and they have a noticeable behavior change, I'd get them out and find a way to "air out" the pine smell from those shavings.

    Too much DE, or any small particles in the air can be bad if breathed too much.
  3. luvmygirlsinAK

    luvmygirlsinAK Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    North Pole, Ak
    Thanks, silkie chicken!
  4. Ladyhawke1

    Ladyhawke1 Songster

    People, please be careful with what you use. Lots a people recommend “stuff” to use. Make sure you do your homework first before you expose you, your families, and animals to any products. That is what your Internet is used for. Pay attention to who is the source of that information. Safety first. [​IMG]

    "Safety considerations
    The absorbent qualities of diatomite can result in a significant drying of the hands, if handled without gloves. The saltwater (industrial) form contains a highly crystalline form of silica, resulting in sharp edges. The sharpness of this version of the material makes it dangerous to breathe and a dust mask is recommended when working with it.

    The type of hazard posed by inhalation depends on the form of the silica. Crystalline silica poses a serious inhalation hazard because it can cause silicosis. Amorphous silica can cause dusty lungs, but does not carry the same degree of risk as crystalline silica. Food-grade diatomite generally contains very low percentages of crystalline silica. Diatomite produced for pool filters is treated with heat, causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume its crystalline form.

    In the United States, the crystalline silica content in the dusts is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and there are guidelines for the maximum amounts allowable in the product and in the air near the breathing zone of workers.[3] "
  5. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    When cleaning the coop.

    ALWAYS wear a mask!

    We always do.
  6. We were told at our co-op that when we buy shavings that the mixture might vary, too. Though it's mostly pine, there is no way to guarantee that we might get other woods, including eastern cedar. Also, when handling a bale if it is extra-heavy by comparison to the others, suspect a large amount of sawdust or moisture, both of which should be avoided. We're allowed to pick our bales before they load them for us. A guideline for the application of food-grade diatomaceous earth is 5% by weight. This is a tiny amount and it is possible to mistakenly use too much.

    When you open a bale sniff for cedar. If it seems predominant, use it for other livestock rather than in the coop.
  7. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    I always wear a dust mask when I'm cleaning the coops.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  8. luvmygirlsinAK

    luvmygirlsinAK Songster

    Nov 15, 2008
    North Pole, Ak
    Thanks for the replies, although the problem wasn't so much from when cleaning out the coop as it was after cleaning out the coop. We use only food grade DE, and my daughter said that she didn't put too much DE in. I did look up everything you gave as a reference, ladyhawke1, (thank-you) and we have never had problems with the DE before, and your information does read "Food-grade diatomite generally contains very low percentages of crystalline silica." There is only the one sentence there pertaining to Food Grade DE, as if it is in a totally different class.

    The actual label on the bag of shavings reads pine shavings. Can they add other stuff to it when it clearly only says "pine shavings?" It smelled like pine, not cedar though.
  9. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    Quote:I wear the dust mask while I'm cleaning the coops to avoid having problems afterwards.
  10. ewesfullchicks

    ewesfullchicks In the Brooder

    Sep 27, 2007
    Regarding the DE....I know people swear by it, but I've done tons and tons of research, and haven't found anything convincing at all that it is beneficial.

    The research was primarily towards whether it helps flea control for dogs, PLUS as a feed additive for livestock against worms, and it doesn't seem to help (according to what I read - and these were properly conducted blind-control type studies). HOWEVER, I WAS tempted to use it anyway, but was put off by the thought of breathing in all that silica (even food-grade). Just too dangerous, and I believe that the lungs have no way of excreting that stuff.

    Meanwhile, my dogs don't have fleas (from use of Front-line/Advantage), and I worm my sheep/goats regularly, like I'd have to do anyway. Neither have I had a problem (yet) with mites, etc. in my chickens...and I have a lot!

    Anyway...not knocking those of you who DO use DE - but please be careful with anything that can so easily be breathed in. Particularly - little critters made of glass!

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