Having the Right Bedding (Also Known as Litter) for Your New Flock is Very Important.
Your family is looking forward the arrival of your new baby chickens and everyone is excited.
The chicks will be too, traveling can be stressful to baby chicks so having their home warm and ready for them when they arrive is important for ensuring their health and well being.
Your goal is to have your brooder box set up and ready to go prior to their arrival.
Materials to Use for Brooder Box
Bedding provides an insulating layer on the floor which is especially important for baby chicks in your brooder box.
Baby chicks are big poopers, so make sure to line the floor of their brooder box with an absorbent material that is safe for walking.
Materials that work best are semi-coarse, absorbent and do not easily mat.
Your family has a lot of choices when it comes to materials. Here are some examples.
Paper towels, Puppy training pads, Wood shavings, Dry sawdust, Peanut hulls, Sugar cane pulp, Crushed dried leaves, Cardboard, Hardware cloth, Rice hulls, Ground corn cobs, Old Towels, pieces of cloth, sheets and/or blankets with no loose strings, Burlap material, Cheesecloth, Peat moss, Sand, Pine needles, Walnut shell, and "Hemcore" are just some possibilities.
Note: Avoid using cedar shavings because the aromatic oils will irritate your baby chicks’ lungs, and make them more susceptible to respiratory problems now or later in life. Also avoid the use of treated wood shavings, straw, kitty litter, newspaper or any bedding material that may be slippery.
Here Is an Idea We Like
Lay paper towels over puppy training pads for the first 5-7 days.
The puppy training pads keep the brooder protected from unavoidable water spills and slashes from the waterer and the paper towels provide a good grip for the chicks and are absorbent enough to catch unwanted moisture from the chick's droppings. When the paper towels get too damp, just change as needed
This Also Works Really Well
Use wood shavings. Although they are the most expensive, they absorb very well and are the easiest to find.
They will break down into a powder like substance, making cleaning very easy. Just scoop them up with a small shovel and dump into a bag.
Caution: Baby Chickens Will Eat the Bedding.
Your baby chicks will peck at whatever is at their feet, so if you don't cover the brooder box material for the first few days, they may eat it and get sick or worse.
Cover the material with paper towels, old household towels, old sheets, old pieces of cloth, hardware cloth, cheesecloth or other non-slick material (we do NOT recommend newspaper) for the first 5-7 days.
By this time your baby chicks will have learned what is feed and what is not so you can safely remove the covering, leaving the clean material underneath.
The brooder box floor should be covered with at least three to four inches of clean, dry material at all times.
Add new litter as needed.
During cold weather you may want more material, as much as eight to ten inches.
Less material is needed in hot weather.
Maintain Your Baby Chick's Brooder.
Keeping your baby chicks home clean is very important and helps to keep them healthy. Baby chicks are susceptible to any number of diseases. Many of them are easily avoided with proper hygiene and brooder maintenance.
It is very important that you never allow the baby chicks’ bedding to remain damp. Make sure the brooder litter is continually dry, clean and free of mold.
Although baby chicks help keep their flooring material dry as they learn to scratch around and stir it, wet spots will happen. Remove caked or wet material and add fresh, new, dry material as needed.
The material should be changed every few days as needed or at least once a week.
Bedding and Supplements
Hemcore is a brand name bedding as well as one of the most popular floor coverings for baby chicks.
It's dust-free and provides a good insulating layer for the brooder box floor during the winter months.
From what I understand Hemcore is made from the core of the Hemp plant stem (for those of you wondering, yes, Hemp is Marijuana).
Hemcore is more expensive, but also much more absorbent than straw and wood shavings and has citronella added as a natural repellent against flies.
BioDri is a specific brand-name product. It is not technically bedding material, but it is a useful supplement. It absorbs moisture many times its own weight much like a sponge, so it helps to prevent damp, wet bedding (litter).
This is helpful for removing unpleasant odors and the harmful build up of ammonia as well as helping to curb the spread of such diseases as Coccidiosis.
Damp, wet litter during the warm weather months provides the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow and spread. BioDri contains BioVX, a disinfectant approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). BioDri is considered environmentally friendly and harmless to your flock.
Used Materials Can Become Great Fertilizer
Used brooder box materials can be added to your compost pile and used to fertilize your family’s lawn, garden, and flower beds.
This is an additional benefit to your family from raising baby chicks. Everyone gets to enjoy your baby chicks while you improve your lawn, garden, and flower beds. Nice!
A good example of a material that makes good fertilizer is chopped cardboard. Chopped cardboard is a good choice of material because it is more absorbent, and does not get as compacted as other materials. It composts quickly and can then be dug into the ground as compost.
Another example is Hemcore. It composts quickly with baby chick manure.
It also rots down quickly so can be added to your compost heap, and with baby chick manure, creates compost that can be spread onto your garden more quickly.
Any materials made from recycled natural wood products may be composted easily and then spread onto your family’s garden.
When your family provides the right bedding material, and is careful to keep it clean and dry, you know that you're doing a wonderful job caring for your flock.