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I am a 50+ yr old stay at home wife of a scientist/Military man.  I raise chickens for eggs, rescue dogs & cats & spoil them all.  I am a silver/metal smith & stained glass artist.  I, at one time was an secondary art teacher & Social Studies teacher.  I am sorta a eclectic earth mother who recycles everything I can get my hands on.  Enjoy working with power tools & even built my own 10ft by 6ft chicken coop.  am pretty much interested in learning everything I can thur books, magazines & friends. I enjoy veggie gardening & doing gardens just for the chickens. I also sew & love making pioneer style comfortable clothes for myself & adding vintage lace when I can find it. I am pretty easygoing, but need my coffee first before I am ready to face the world & day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What bedding do you choose for your chickens?

Hello to my Chicken readers!
You know even though I grew up on a farm, I never thought about what bedding I was cleaning out or putting in. Dad said 'Do it' & I just did, hey kids don't care just as long as its fast & not too messy. Let me be VERY clear, I am not saying anything is better than the other in this article, this is just what I have dealt with by using the different beddings I am writing about. Straw is what I learned to use growing up so that's what I started with for my chickens. One bale runs about $10 here & is easy for me to get. I never had any problems with it if I was lazy & not on top of keeping the coop spotless. Yeah, like that's going to happen! I like the fact it settles down fast & with very little dust. Its light weight enough the girls can dig around in it to make nests & easy to add more if needed. Plus I like the fact they don't try to eat it once they realize it has no likable favor. It is so light that even bagging it up to put either in the garden, under bushes or in the compost pile is very easy on my back. When we had the animal attack the bunny & chickens this last fall, I had to make a tarp coop in the basement so I had to come up with a bedding that would be easy for me to haul out. I have a neighbor who loves her wood shaving, so I thought that might be a easy to sweep up bedding. I got the same pine shavings she uses & put it down, lots of dust but the girls loved the fact they could dust bathe in it. Problem was my little man, Cashmire has the awful habit of dumping the feed as soon as I put it down, so the girls were eating feed mixed with the very small bits of shavings. Milly ended up with so much in her tummy, it wasn't going through the gizzard & breaking down, so she pooped pure sawdust, It ended up like sandpaper to her insides & I lost her after a day even though I shot oil & water inside her vent to help ease it through. She was pooping white bloody water by the time she died. So I was heart broken, but knew this was something important that I needed to remember. Now I have straw on top of the wood shavings & that has seemed to help with that (so far). Another friend uses hay in her coop & has never had a problem, I tried that when I couldn't get the straw & the girls went nuts! Oh how they loved the hay to eat, but then again a problem.....Jiggerbug ate the long thin stems & not enough grit & became gizzard bound to the point I had to put her down. So now if I want them to have hay, I buy the herbal bags of hay from a herb company & know that it will not get bound up & cause problems. I also tried cut grass from mowing our lawn, I set it out in the sun to dry & put that in the nesting boxes thinking it would be very soft for them. Domino decided she preferred eating it while she nested & she too because gizzard bound, I had her in the house 2 weeks nursing her before I had to put her down. The grass would have been alright I think, if it had been cut shorter, but you know how you don't really think of these things at the time. Now any grass cut goes to my neighbors goats! I love my chickens, but sometimes the mistakes I make just kill my heart when I realize I have hurt my girls. Everyone has what works for them & I am learning as I go along that what works for me may not work for someone else. Part of the problem is most of my girls are raised in the house before going to a coop, so they have never experienced fresh grass or hay & then over eat to the point it kills them with the gizzard bound issues. When I created my run, I cut into the grass to remove it so I could put chicken wire down with weed netting. I also put in fresh dirt & put the old grass in my compost pile. I was so worried about animals getting into the coop I never let my girls experience fresh grass as it grew so they would get used to it. Now I have a mix of hens who were raised with grass & others who weren't so it is hard to allow them to have fresh cut grass. Thank goodness I am the type that will give fresh vegs, fruits, grains ect to suppliment their diets, so I don't feel too bad, but I do have to watch my girls when they find grass so they don't go nuts. The one thing I have found with the different beddings is what to do with them when you change/clean the coop. hay, grass & wood shaving break down so fast they are great for my gardens & compost piles, but the straw takes forever to break down & is not as easy to place. But I did use it for my gardens over the winter, where it still is until I remove it. I could till it in but there is too much of it for the small space. I do have a special chicken compost area but it too is completely full so had to think of what to do with all the straw. Well, I have tons of bushes & trees that line my yard & decided since they will grow very bushy the straw under them would be hidden & give the plants some needed benefits. Plus the small animals would have a great nesting area that is well protected & private. Plus, because the chicken poo straw is spread out under them there is no smells, which I had worried about. So my trash man doesn't have to deal with it, the neighbors don't have to smell it & I have recyced it quickly. The wood shavings/straw mix I like under my lilac trees, the straw settles to the bottom & the shavings on top so it makes the bed look nice & holds in any water/rain we get. needless to say, I will still battle these weird issues as I go along & hopefully you will learn something from my rabblings.
Update on some of my girls: May Belle, who Chatty was too rough mating with is now completely lame with one leg but has learned to hop around quite happily. She is now another in house pet along with Voodoo Moon who is completely crippled but healthy. Rosy came to me 2 days ago, she had been pecked at her tail area & needed some quiet time to heal. She is doing well & right now is down in the dining room hanging out. Once she has gotten some feathers she will be a new mate to Cashmire since she is small but tall. Poor Chatty is so big, I have to really be careful who I put in with him. He is a gentle soul but as a Buff Orpington he has the weight that crushes some of the girls. Spring is in the air here & both boys are getting a tad more aggressive which is normal but murder on my poor legs they like to attack.
Well until next time, Have a great chicken day!
Footnote: After many tries with everything I now use good ole bedding hay that seems to work just fine with the ones I have now. I think since I tend to give them everything food wise they no longer feel the need to try & eat what they nest in.

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