Sand in the brooder -- it's worth it!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Bellatrixed, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2013
    One of my strongest memories of brooding chickens in the past is how badly the brooders smelled. I always either used wire cages with a tray for droppings (like a rabbit cage) or sawdust/wood chips in the past, but since it was about 10 years ago, I no longer remember the exact details. I just remember the stench.

    When I set about researching chickens again, I was immediately intrigued by several comments I read about using sand in brooders. I was initially a little hesitant. I was afraid the chicks would eat too much of the sand, or that it would smell terribly anyway.

    Well, I’m on day 7 of brooding my new chicks on the sand and am so happy with this bedding that I decided to make a post recommending it!

    My goals were simple:
    1) Keep odors to an absolute minimum,
    2) Make daily cleanup fast, easy, and efficient with minimal wasted bedding (i.e. expense)

    So I bought the following materials:
    Children’s Play Sand
    ReptiSand (terrarium sand suitable for reptiles)
    Sweet PDZ (stall freshener for horses, odor eliminator)
    Reptile litter scoop (cat litter scoop’s holes were too big for chick droppings)
    (You will also want either tiny trash bags or plastic grocery bags to put the dirty litter in)

    I filled my brooder with children’s play sand. I then mixed a good amount of reptile sand with it to “loosen” the pebble-heavy play sand. This may or may not be a necessary step depending on the quality of your play sand, but mine had so many pebbles that the first few cleanings were mostly sand rocks mixed with droppings. I then sprinkled one scoop of Sweet PDZ across the brooder and mixed it in to help keep odors to a minimum.

    My chicks are only one week old, so I suppose it’s possible they will suddenly get super stinky as they continue to grow, but there is literally *no* odor coming from their brooder. None! My nose (and the noses of my family) couldn’t be happier.

    I simply scoop the brooder out once a day, as if it’s a giant litter box. I must warn you, particularly if you have allergies or asthma (I have both!) that it’s imperative you wear a dust mask and possibly goggles when you scoop it out, because sand is dusty and chickens make it even moreso.

    After scooping, I sprinkle a little Sweet PDZ on top just to make sure everything stays fresh.

    The chicks don't eat the sand excessively. They like to peck at it, scratch, and take dust baths in it, though. It absorbs any water spills, distributes warmth wonderfully, and also eliminates the need to give your chicks grit if you feed them treats. All in all, it's a win/win in my opinion.

    Anyway, I just love the setup, so I had to share. :) Pics say it all!



    5 people like this.
  2. PoultryGirly

    PoultryGirly Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2012
    Awesome! I may have to try this!
  3. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2013
    I highly recommend it! I hope this is useful to someone. :)
  4. bugglesmommy

    bugglesmommy Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have three brooders and my guest room smells like it even with frequent cleanings! This is a great idea! I have to try this!
  5. WickeeChickee

    WickeeChickee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 28, 2013
    Madisonville, LA
    Great ideas! Questions, tho:

    Is reptile sand/scoop available at big box pet stores like petsmart?

    Are u having any trouble with chicks eating sand instead of feed?

    Getting brooder set up this afternoon/tomorrow and panicking as it's my first time!

  6. BarredRockGirls

    BarredRockGirls Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 6, 2013
    i want to use sand in my big coop for this same reason . awesome pics.
  7. AlaskaChicks

    AlaskaChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 16, 2012
    hmmm, sand. I'd never thought of it. I live right near a beach too so I can get as much as i want. I am going to have to try this out! I might start using it in the coop too! although I do like that with the wood shavings it makes composting a breeze :) Thanks for the tip, can't wait to give it a try!
  8. Bellatrixed

    Bellatrixed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2013
    Thanks for the comments, I hope it works for you guys too!
    The reptile sand/scoop should be available in a pet store, yes. I just ordered mine from Amazon since the Petsmart is pretty far away, but they are really common supplies for reptiles and I know those stores sell supplies for them.

    The chicks know the sand isn't their feed, but they do peck at it and ingest a little sand as a result. It's no different from chicks ingesting dirt or rock when raised outdoors though, and since they aren't gorging themselves I assume the sand is just good grit for them! Like I said, if some feed spills on the sand they target it and pick up the crumbles while leaving the sand alone. Make sure you put down paper towels on it for the first few days til you're sure they're eating though. :)
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
  9. WickeeChickee

    WickeeChickee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 28, 2013
    Madisonville, LA
    Thank you bunches! :D
  10. CarolynF

    CarolynF Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2011
    Puget Sound
    My Coop
    Thank you SO much for taking the time to post this. You did a great job of describing everything and the pictures are super!

    I use sand in my pen and coop and love it for exactly the reason you describe. And I "scoop" every morning so the smell is very minimal. I don't use the PDZ stuff, but I've heard of it. Is there any chance they could eat that? I haven't seen it so I don't know if it's powder or grains or what.

    My hens were POL when I got them, so didn't raise from chicks. I now have my first 4 chicks, ever, and am just learning as I go. I wondered if I could/should use sand in the brooder -- they have newspaper right now. But based on your experience I think I'll definitely switch to sand. Just need the mesh scoop because as you said, and I thought about, my litter scoop is way to big. That little chick poo is pretty tiny stuff!

    Thanks again!

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