IN THIS SERIES, I’M GOING TO BREAK DOWN THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS TO SETTING UP A QUALITY BROODER FOR CHICKS.
So far in this series, we have covered information to help pick a brooder (Part 1) and a heating source (Part 2), in (Part 3) were going to cover bedding options. There are some great choices and a few that should be avoided. We will discuss both conventional natural products and a few man-made choices. By the end, I hope you feel a bit more prepared to make your choice. Let the learning commence!
Pine and Aspen Shavings
The most important choices here is to make sure you pick untreated shavings. There is much debate against treated causing possible respiratory infections. Readily available at any farm or pet store shavings are a go-to for many chicken keepers. Plus, peeps love to scratch around in them! They are not however very good at absorbing the mess, so cleaning them often is a must. Steer away from Cedar shavings its thought that they can cause illness in peeps. You can get shavings in many different size bag ranging from $3.00-$8.00.
I’m not talking about play sand, it needs to be construction grade to avoid small particles from entering the respiratory tract. Because sand is naturally absorbent it helps to dry the droppings. Make sure the sand you use is very dry otherwise the sand becomes hard which can cause spraddle legs. The sand will need to be scooped and cleaned daily to avoid compaction as well. If using heat lamps be careful that the sand doesn’t become too hot, causing burns to the chicks. Sand is the perfect choice for out in their run once they get a little older. Price ranges on the size of the bag; a good safe estimate is $5.00 to $10.00.
Non-Slip Shelf Liner
Normally, in the beginning, I choose this option. While it’s not a conventional choice it works well while the peeps are getting their footing. I also use it in my incubators when hatching new peeps. It’s easily rinsed and washed off then dried for reuse. Can be found at pretty much any store. Only cost a few dollars a roll.
Not a choice I would use early on. It can mold rather quickly and carry harmful bacteria. It is, however, 100% natural if purchased as organic. If the straw is from someone who uses heavy pesticides in their fields, I would choose a different option. It will need to be changed often due to its inability to absorb well. Works great inside the coops once they are older but not perfect for the brooder. Depending on where your location is $3.00-$5.00 a bale.
The Big No-Nos
Veer away from using paper towels and newspaper, both mold easily and cause a slipping hazard. Spraddle legs are not something anyone wants to deal with. Even though highly fixable, spraddle leg is dislocations, causing the chicks extreme discomfort. Cat litter should never be used as a bedding choice. It has way too many chemicals and the chicks will eat it causing intestinal distress or even death. Other questionable choices would include hay, puppy pee pads, and mulch.
With a number of great options available in all price ranges finding one that works for you shouldn’t be too difficult. Some may work better during different stages of a chick’s growth allowing you to try a few different ones. Most importantly, choose an option that is safe for the chick, minimizing illnesses and injuries. Do you feel like you’re getting more prepared for your chicks? With so much conflicting opinions it can be hard to make choices, especially for first-time keepers.