Dirt as brooder bedding?


Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2019
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
I don't have chicks right now, but I was wondering if you could use dirt as bedding instead of shavings. It seems like it would help them build an immunity from things like coccidiosis if you used dirt from a chicken run. Anyone have input?

Anything is possible, but I would not recommend using dirt as bedding instead of shavings. I think dirt bedding would get soiled, wet, and smelly fairly fast. That's not a combination I want in my brooder.

I have successfully used straw, shredded paper, pine shavings, and this year I had my best luck with wood chips. I used a deep litter bedding of wood chips and continued to fluff up/stir the bedding every few days. If I detected any smell, I would add more wood chips on top, then stir up in another few days. At the end of 8 weeks, I had about 6 inches of wood chip bedding in the brooder that I cleaned out and threw into my compost pile. There was never a smell to the bedding other than the pleasant odor of wood chips. Perfect for me.

I did dig up clumps of grass with dirt and put it into the brooder for my chicks. The next day, it would be all gone. I don't know how much dirt they ate, but if not eaten, it just got mixed into the wood chip bedding.


Jun 15, 2017
Harrisville, NY
It’s funny that this came up. I’ve been sitting here pondering what I saw my broody do with her chicks this morning it was their first time off the nest. She went over and dug a deep hole in the bedding till she got to dirt called all the chicks over and chirped at them to eat. At first I thought she didn’t see the food dish I set out but a few minutes later she marched them all over to the bowl of crumble. It made me think that maybe this is how they kick start their digestion, I don’t get a lot of past butt in my brooder chicks but sometimes one or two but my broody chicks never have it.
I don’t think I would use all dirt in the brooder as gtaus said it would get gross fast, I use puppy pads the first week then they moved out to a sectioned area of the coop. But I am now going to provide a small sample of sod for them.

Compost King

Free Ranging
Apr 19, 2018
Salisbury, North Carolina
If I used Dirt (which may not be a bad idea) I would be mixing it would saw dust or another fine high carbon material because it absorbs odors and moisture. With the dirt you could be introducing them to something that builds up their immune system or something that kills them. Unless its some breed you may never get a chance to replace I would say the gamble is worth it.
Just a small amount dirt (like from a small clump of sod) in the corner is probably the best way to do it though.

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