Using Shredded Paper for Coop Litter - As Good As Wood Chips?

gtaus

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Here is a YouTube video on making and using shredded paper as bedding for your chickens. He has a 6 sheet shredder.


The only thing I would add is that with a more powerful shredder, like a 12 sheet shredder, you can also shred cardboard products. I think the cardboard shreds add value to the litter because it is more firm and less likely to mat down. I mainly use the light food box cardboard, but I think heavier shipping cardboard boxes would be equally useful.
 

saysfaa

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For the past 2 years, I have been using wood chips as the base of my dry deep litter in my chicken coop. The wood chips work great and I highly recommend them for anyone considering the deep litter method. This year, however, I am trying a twist on the idea. After I did my fall cleaning of the coop, removing all my wood chips for a fresh base to carry me over the winter, I decided to use my shredded paper I had saved in some big bags. So far, I have so say, I am very pleased with my results.

First of all, I try to minimize garbage we haul to the landfill. I came across a used 12 sheet paper shredder at our local thrift store for $5.00. A new model of that brand costs about $80. I had smaller shredders at home, about 5-8 sheets, but thought that a 12 sheet shredder for $5.00 was a good deal and would allow me to shred more and heavier types of paper. ...

I also shred our old newspapers, but I find the quality of newspapers to be very low compared to the other papers. It comes out all stringy and wraps around the shredder rollers. It seems to mat down more easily than the other types of shredded paper. I would not recommend using only shredded newspaper, but it works OK in the mix with all the other types of shredded paper.
...
Would love to hear any comments, pro or con, on using shredded paper with your chickens. Also, would really like to hear if there is a better way to shred old newspapers.
What a score!! If I find that good of a deal, I would like to try it. I'm not sure I would do it while we live here, though - very small house.

I think the mix of textures contributes to it working well.

The biggest con I see is that it is so much work to put it through the shredder, especially the cardboard. We have a burn barrel; I burn most paper and cardboard and use the ashes in the dust bath. The chickens shake the ashes out of their feathers onto the litter which will eventually go to the garden.

In our last house, I shredded most of our paper. I found that emptying the shredder bin into a paper leaf bag instead of a plastic garbage bag was much faster and less messy to fill and to empty.
 

gtaus

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@saysfaa, lots of good points.

I think the mix of textures contributes to it working well.

That is what I believe, having the light cardboard mixed in with the normal paper seems to give the shreds a better composition to use as litter.

The biggest con I see is that it is so much work to put it through the shredder, especially the cardboard.

I was already shredding my old bills, so, no extra work there. Adding the junk mail to the shredding really does not take much time. When it comes to the food boxes light cardboard, I just shred them up instead of throwing them in the recycle bin. Takes only a small bit of time to break down the box to put it through the shredder. Also, I shred them as we empty the boxes, so it's never a big chore at one time.

Occasionally I get a heavy cardboard box to run through the shredder. That takes time to break down and cut into strips, like you mentioned. I just use my old heavy duty scissors because I don't have many boxes coming through my house. But if I had lots of packing boxes to break down and cut into strips, then I would surely invest in those $40 Worx ZipSnips and let the machine with blades do the cutting for me.

We have a burn barrel; I burn most paper and cardboard and use the ashes in the dust bath. The chickens shake the ashes out of their feathers onto the litter which will eventually go to the garden.

Well, I guess using ash from burning the paper is a good way to reuse junk paper. I have not done that. But I can see how that might work. It's good that you found another use for your paper.

In our last house, I shredded most of our paper. I found that emptying the shredder bin into a paper leaf bag instead of a plastic garbage bag was much faster and less messy to fill and to empty.

Last year I put my paper shreds into those large, tall paper leaf bags. That works great for storage. They hold a lot of paper shreds.

But I now prefer just to dump my paper shreds into my 13 gallon kitchen sized waste basket and then carry out a smaller bag of shreds when the bag gets full. I just line the kitchen garbage can with large plastic shopping bags I get free from Menards. You can get them at the checkout, usually on a shelf for extra large items you might purchase. Anyway, I grabbed a few of those bags and use them to line my paper shreds garbage bin. The plastic bags have handles, which makes it easier for me to carry out to the chicken coop. Works good for me.
 

Sally PB

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To be fair to myself, I am talking about one 13 gallon kitchen trash bag per week, not the larger trash bags for the cans out in the garage which I think are maybe 33 gallons.
Yeah, mine are the 33 gallon size. Each bag requires a tag, so I put all the smaller bags into one big one. Our trash pickup is Monday morning, one spot for everyone on the road, which is 1/4 mile from our house. There aren't enough people back here to make it worth while for the garbage company to bring a recycle truck back, I guess.

We have a wood stove, so some of our paper waste is used as fire starter too.

Oh, one thing about ashes... I sometimes put ashes on our garden, to help balance out the acid from all the oak leaves we have. If you do this, be sure to sprinkle them lightly over the ground. I was trying to do that, my hand slipped, and I got a pretty hefty dose in a few spots. That area was planted with alfalfa the next spring, and I could tell where the ashes were too thick... the alfalfa didn't grow nearly as well there.
 

gtaus

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Yeah, mine are the 33 gallon size. Each bag requires a tag, so I put all the smaller bags into one big one. Our trash pickup is Monday morning, one spot for everyone on the road, which is 1/4 mile from our house. There aren't enough people back here to make it worth while for the garbage company to bring a recycle truck back, I guess.

I guess we both have about the same amount of garbage after using everything we can for recycle/reuse/repurposing at home. But I have a 30 mile round trip to haul my garbage to the dump. So maybe I am also thinking about all the gas money, time, and effort it costs me to load up stuff that I might be able to reuse at home.

We have a wood stove, so some of our paper waste is used as fire starter too.

When I was a young kid my grandparents had a wood cook stove at our lake cabin that grandma used to cook our food. It also was our heater/furnance. Back in the day, we did not have electricity at our lake cabin. So I learned how to chop wood and haul out ashes. Although I appreciate the convenience of modern electricity and my electric/gas furnance, I do miss the smell of grandma starting a wood fire early in the morning before the rest of us got out of bed.

Oh, one thing about ashes... I sometimes put ashes on our garden, to help balance out the acid from all the oak leaves we have. If you do this, be sure to sprinkle them lightly over the ground. I was trying to do that, my hand slipped, and I got a pretty hefty dose in a few spots. That area was planted with alfalfa the next spring, and I could tell where the ashes were too thick... the alfalfa didn't grow nearly as well there.

I have never used ashes for the garden. I heard that the ashes can be good, but my father did all the burning when I was growing up and he would dump all kinds of gas and old motor oil from changing the oil on our cars. So, I never figured those ashes would be good for our garden. Now, I chip up most or our wood and the heavier branches and tree trunks get thrown into a new hügelkultur raised garden bed. I do almost no burning anymore.

Well, that and our laws have changed for open burning. Now you need to pay for a burn permit and there are lots of times in the summer where any open burning is not permitted at all if the conditions are too dry. It's a small inconvenience to purchase a burning permit, but the fine for burning without a permit would really hurt. Even worse, if a fire gets out of control and you don't have that permit in hand, guess who pays for both the fine and all the costs of the fire department coming out to your property?

I had a neighbor lady who used to burn open fires in their wooded/tall grass backyard adjacent to mine. She was burning a big pile of wood, without a permit, during a no burning allowed period, and the fire jumped into the dry tall grass and got out of control. She ended up calling the fire department on herself, but the fire was working its way through her backyard towards my house, so I would have been forced to call the fire department if she had not done so first. Anyway, that was the last fire she ever had out there. Taught me a good lesson, too.

I think I am better off using the wood to make wood chips, anyway. I use them in the chicken coop, the chicken run, in the compost bins, in the garden as mulch, in the pathways to block out weeds, etc... So, lots of uses for junk wood as wood chips rather than just burning them up in a pile. Having said that, chipping up wood takes a lot of time and effort and burning a pile of wood takes almost no effort.
 

saysfaa

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^^ is why we use a burn barrel: safety and we don't have to deal with burn permits or trying to burn when it is wet. A rocket stove is better but I haven't gotten to that here yet. I built one on the farm as a maple syrup evaporator. It works well but better for sustained burns vs short/small batches and we let the woods absorb branches and such so it is just the household stuff we don't want to look at in the woods.

Shredding is better in most ways, I think... bedding being a higher value use than ashes, conservation of nutrients (if paper has enough to matter).
 

gtaus

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Shredding is better in most ways, I think... bedding being a higher value use than ashes, conservation of nutrients (if paper has enough to matter).

Well, that is what I think too. I don't expect paper shreds have much nutrients in them other than they make great compost material along with all those greens and chicken poo. Using the paper shreds as chicken litter for the coop has value to me. I read that using dry leaves and making leaf mold is full of nutrients because the tree's roots draw up all those nutrients from way down deep in the ground and those nutrients end up in the leaves.
 

gtaus

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Among other uses, I use my shredded paper as a thin mulch in the garden. When it matts down it makes a fairly effective weed barrier. I also add leaves on top to prevent it from getting so tight that it prevents water from getting to the dirt. The leaves help keep it wet.

When my paper shreds get wet, they do mat down. But in my chicken coop, the paper shreds basically stay dry. When I clean out my coop, I throw the coop litter into the chicken run. At that point, I'll mix grass clipping and maybe leaves in with the paper shreds to make some great compost.

And I always top off the paper shreds in the chicken run with grass clippings and/or leaves so the shreds don't blow away in the wind. Not really a big deal, but once I had paper confetti all over the yard after a windy day. Just took out the riding mower and vacuumed up all those shreds. Learned my lesson and now top off those paper shreds with other litter so they don't blow all over the yard.
 

gtaus

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I found an interesting YouTube video on a comparison of different litter material used for brooder. One of the litter options was shredded paper. She had 5 different categories to consider. The shredded paper came out as the #1 preference for her chicks to sleep in, which was one category. I guess you can buy shredded paper in compressed plastic wrapped bales, which is what she did, but I don't know why you could not just use your own paper shreds you make at home. Anyway, she spent good money on buying shredded paper bales and that knocked it down in the cost category compared to the low cost she paid for sand. I think if she had been using free paper sheds, maybe paper would have come out top in that category, too.

Anyway, interesting to see a comparison of different litter methods to use for the chicks.

 
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