Cocoa Mulch O.K. for bedding?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by O.C.Chick, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. O.C.Chick

    O.C.Chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 15, 2008
    Newport Beach, CA
    Has anyone ever used cocoa mulch as bedding in their chicken coop or run? I know it is toxic to dogs if they ingest it (since it is derived from cocoa bean hulls), but I have heard that it is safe for chickens. Does anyone else have any experience or thoughts on this?

    I was also considering coir (coconut fiber), but I think that would be too expensive...My coop / run is approx. 30 feet x 5 feet, and I usually go 2" thick with the bedding.

    I am trying to find a safe but dark-colored bedding for my chicken run / coop that I can put directly in my garden when I clean the coop...I clean all of the bedding out about once a month and want to be able to use it to mulch my garden. I don't like pine shavings because they need to be composted first, and I don't have enough room for a large compost pile.

    I had been using composted organic redwood shavings, but several of my chickens have had intestinal issues lately and I'm concerned that bedding may be the issue. (Even though they say not to use redwood shavings with chickens due to the oils, I don't think it's the redwood itself that's causing the problems since it's been composted and the oils are gone...I think it might be whatever bacteria or microbes that they use to compost it that may be causing the intestinal problems.)

    Any thoughts on Cocoa mulch or coir would be much appreciated![​IMG]
     
  2. wildorchid053

    wildorchid053 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 12, 2009
    syracuse area, ny
    unless your shaded the cocoa mulch will get pretty hot.. i am not sure about toxic for sure.. cocoa is toxic to alot of animals
     
  3. RocketDad

    RocketDad Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I wouldn't recommend putting the used litter directly in the garden, but put it in a compost bin (even a ring of wire fencing) to let it cook for a bit first. The stuff will be darker after, it won't have that bright yellowish pine color.

    You don't need much space for a compost bin. Much less than for a pile. The garden stores sell plastic ones that work pretty well. I use a piece of welded wire fence for composting leaves from the neighbor's 50 year old oak tree that end up in my yard. I have another one I made with cable ties and a piece of metal lath.

    Pine shavings cost me about 7 bucks for a compressed bale.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    There is no real difference between putting cocoa mulch (or coir) on your garden versus shavings. If it is ON the soil, it will not rob any meaningful amount of nitrogen unless your soil is already quite N-deficient to begin with and even then it's only a minor effect; if you mix it INTO the soil, it doesn't matter whehter it's shavings or cocoa or coir or any other organic mulch, it all does the same thing, it temporarily decreases soil N availability while it rots down.

    I would be cautious about putting coop cleanings directly on the garden, not because of the bedding component but because of the fresh poo component. I am totally not saying not to do it -- I do it sometimes -- but I would do it ONLY around plants likely to have a reasonable sense of humor about N excess, and able to recover if there should be a problem. I would not recommend putting large amounts of fresh cleanings around trees, for instance, as it would be depressing to have a major landscape feature die. Add fresh coop cleanings cautiously for the first year or so til you get a sense of what works for you (it will vary depending on soil type, soil fertility, climate, plant species, etc so you pretty much just have to find out for yourself).

    So, use any ole bedding -- pine shavings are no worse than anything else in this regard -- just be sensible in using it [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. Jim from Cincinnati

    Jim from Cincinnati Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 13, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I have been experimenting with peatmoss. So far I like it, but am waiting to see if it lasts. It drains well and chickens like to dig in it and take dustbaths
    O.C.Chick :

    Has anyone ever used cocoa mulch as bedding in their chicken coop or run? I know it is toxic to dogs if they ingest it (since it is derived from cocoa bean hulls), but I have heard that it is safe for chickens. Does anyone else have any experience or thoughts on this?

    I was also considering coir (coconut fiber), but I think that would be too expensive...My coop / run is approx. 30 feet x 5 feet, and I usually go 2" thick with the bedding.

    I am trying to find a safe but dark-colored bedding for my chicken run / coop that I can put directly in my garden when I clean the coop...I clean all of the bedding out about once a month and want to be able to use it to mulch my garden. I don't like pine shavings because they need to be composted first, and I don't have enough room for a large compost pile.

    I had been using composted organic redwood shavings, but several of my chickens have had intestinal issues lately and I'm concerned that bedding may be the issue. (Even though they say not to use redwood shavings with chickens due to the oils, I don't think it's the redwood itself that's causing the problems since it's been composted and the oils are gone...I think it might be whatever bacteria or microbes that they use to compost it that may be causing the intestinal problems.)

    Any thoughts on Cocoa mulch or coir would be much appreciated![​IMG]
     
  6. possumqueen

    possumqueen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Monroe, North Carolina
    cocoa mulch is definitely toxic. Dogs like it, and it can kill them. I wouldn't try it around the chickens. Dogs and chickens both eat some pretty nasty stuff, but they seem to be pretty sensitive to toxins.
     
  7. O.C.Chick

    O.C.Chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 15, 2008
    Newport Beach, CA
    So, is it officially confirmed that cocoa is toxic to birds? I have seen some unofficial posts to that effect, but never by a veterinarian.

    BTW, Thank you all for your responses...I Must not have subscribed to my own post, because I thought I had not gotten any responses. The, just did another Google search and realized that I had!

    I should have mentioned that my chickens free-range during the day, and I clean out the coop every day to remove poop from the roosts, bedding etc., so it's not a concern about composting the un-aged manure. There's never enough poop in my bedding to make a diffference. I just like to clean out all of the coop bedding once a month or so to prevent mold, etc., and use it immediately for mulch on my garden beds. That's why I was using the redwood compost, because of the rich color which makes my beds look nice.

    And, I DO compost...(I'm actually a Certified Master Composter through the University of California's Master Gardener's program, and the reigning "Queen" of worm composting in Orange County!) I have 10 large worm bins, so I really don't have much room (or time!) for more composting projects! That's why I like the idea of putting bedding directly from the coop into the garden and saving the step of composting.

    Anyway, THANKS!

    Alys
     
  8. Chieftain

    Chieftain Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 21, 2009
    The way I understand this thread, we are talking about two different materials.

    "Cocoa mulch" is one thing and "Coconut fiber" is another.

    Cocoa bean shells are sometimes available at garden centers as are a number of other nut shells. I buy filbert shell mulch that I use in my smoker (it makes AMAZING smoked turkey...). But cocoa bean shells are toxic to dogs for the same reason chocolate is.

    Coconut matting is made from the shredded husks of coconut shells, and I've seen it as a woven mat as well as the pre-formed liners you can get for flower pots.

    I just posted a different thread (I didn't see this one...) asking whether this mat is a good liner for a nest box, and it doesn't appear that there is any reason not to use it...is there??

    [​IMG]
     
  9. O.C.Chick

    O.C.Chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Newport Beach, CA
    Yes, two different materials. The "Cocoa-Mulch" I was originally asking about is the byproduct hull of cocoa-beans...Hershey's is one of the largest suppliers. It contains the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, both which can cause stomach upset, seizures and death in dogs and cats if ingested in large quantities. That was my original question...Does anyone know if the cocoa hulls, (or Chocolate and caffeine) are toxic to chickens?

    As for the coir, this is the fiber from the outside of the COCONUT and the fiberous casing around the fronds...I do use the woven mats inside of my nesting beds. The chickens seem to like it and it has the advantage of being easy to clean by shaking it out and also rinsing it off if necessary. I actually found a bunch of pieces that fell off of a palm tree on my street, and the chickens really seem to find it comfortable (My silkies new bed...they don't roost...They sleep curled up together like kittens). It's raining here right now and all 6 are in the coop...My Appenzellers just stole the Silkies' coir bed, so it must be a hit!

    The coir is definitely safe for chickens..My only concern was the cost if I was using it for litter in the coop. At 35' x 5' It could get really expensive!!![​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010
  10. O.C.Chick

    O.C.Chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 15, 2008
    Newport Beach, CA
    P.S. to Jim In Cincinnati: I would love to hear how the peat moss works out! I was thinking of that but didn't use it because I thought it might be bad for the chickens to inhale the dust. Then I read that they use it in horse stalls and that the dust is very low. So would love to hear the prognosis!
     

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