Chicken-safe mulch?


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 24, 2011
Howdy - I need to mulch my raised beds, and I need something chicken-safe. The beds are deer-resistant, so the chickens should also not be in there unless I remove the top. However, some mulch will doubtless end up in the yard. What's chicken-safe? I was thinking chopped straw would work. Other, less messy ideas?

My chickens make mulch for me.
Nitrogen rich chicken berries. Makes the plants grow nicely.
Well I know you need to stay away from the preen mulch for sure as it contains weed killer. I'm not sure what the dyed mulch is dyed with but why take a chance.

I know the cypress cedar and pine should be close to all natural. My look into a hardwood too.
I stay away from cocoa hulls, just because some dogs have gotten sick or died from eating it. It just smells too good to them. I have a cocker spaniel that's a real foodie.

I didn't even know they made mulches now, that had weed killer or dye in them. I wouldn't use those, myself. Other than that, I think you could use anything and the chickens would be just fine.
Look for natural products from a local landscape supplier. Things like pine bark (nuggets), shredded bark or recycled hardwood are about the best for weed suppression and moisture retention. And it looks nice. One of my suppliers gets mulch from recycled, shredded pallets from time to time and that works well. Or you could go with compost from your city/town if they have it. At the landfill in this area, they have a huge composting field and we can buy it by the cubic yard for cheap.

Please avoid cypress mulch. It works well but the commercial producers of it are destroying the swamps in the south just to make mulch. That destroys our environment and increases the chance of flooding.

Cocoa hulls also turn moldy pretty quick and form into clumps if too damp. Dyed muclches have colourant agents but most producers won't say what chemicals they are using. (I have 1 client who insists on the black-dyed mulch, even though I've tried to talk her out of it. It leaves awful stains on my clothes and tools.)
I think I would avoid grass, leaves and straw just because it doesn't look as tidy in raised beds, unless you don't mind the look.
I use Pine mulch in all my garden beds. My pullets free-range. They are in the beds from time to time. No harm that I see yet. Besides maybe to the occasional plant from a chicken.
Thanks all. The boss says pine shavings are fine, or that plastic/fabric stuff. Nothing else is allowed, lest it hurt the birds :)
I did check out the dyes ... for 20 plus years I would only use natural red oak mulch (look of cedar but not the price) but I always got funky molds and within a month or at least my before end of summer it would be be starting to faded and definitely the follow spring it was dirt/dead was frustrating. The colors began to appeal to me so I started researching their content and safely. Yes they are messy when applying they say ... but afterwards little time should not transfer colorant easily.

The dyes are non-toxic. The black is straight carbon - which is natural ... used for newspaper ink, toner/copiers, etc The red is the iron oxide same stuff used in make up. So ... now that I know the dyes are generally safe ... the next concern was

what type of wood is being used? a lot of mulch can be made with anything including virgin, scrap & recycled such as xmas tress ... as well as palettes and old pressure treated decking, etc which is toxic with Arsenic as well as other toxins from old scraps. Although it's not sold any longer it doesn't mean it's not out there and can make it's way into mulch. The woods different brands use ... has been more challenging to research and get a consistent answer - ranges from hardwood & pine bark, cypress & cedar. FYI -Cedar is also not good for chickens.

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