Photobucket

Author Topic: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?  (Read 4204 times)

Offline mikem

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 311
  • Karma: 14
  • ¿por qué so serious?
Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« on: June 28, 2011, 10:19:32 PM »
We recently got chickens and the plan was to use natural cedar shavings for the bedding, then rotate the soiled mix into the compost. I've heard a few people now who have cautioned against this, first for the chicken's respiratory system, and second because it doesn't break down well or will stop plants from growing due to a natural fungicide in the cedar. 

Do I actually have anything to worry about here? Online research hasn't been convincing. Just curious if anyone has done this or has a better recommendation.

Thanks!
MM

Offline paisleyford

  • Fledgling Prepper
  • *
  • Posts: 2
  • Karma: 0
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 06:14:41 AM »
My grandparents owned a farm, as well as half my relatives, and they all say not to use cedar around animals if they will be in close contact where the fumes/offgasses can be inhaled. Many pesticides, including natural ones can also affect nonpests, if they get enough in their system. Put a bunch of chips in a large bowl on your desk while you work and you will see how quickly you will feel kinda ill and may even get a headache from breathing cedar. You can get real sick sawing it into boards without a mask on. Ditto for short animals like chickens because they are only a few inches from it while they breathe. And as far as composting, it will keep the worms and benificial bacteria from doing their job to break down the compost into soil because they won't even go near it, so what would be the point then. If you have that much cedar chips to 'waste,' place it around and under decks, garden containers, raised beds, doghouses, etc. to keep the weeds and bugs down. Stuff it into cloth sacks, big and small, to stash in closets, cupboards, dressers, corners, etc to slow down/halt pantry moths, clothing moths, mice, cockroaches, ants, etc. You can use leaves and straw and tall grass cuttings, even shredded paper from banks/businesses, etc for your chickens. it even scoops up better to throw out...chips are heavier and smaller, often falling out of scoop shovels unless you move slow and careful...who has time for that when you want to move the poop fast, not take all day. Farmers often sell old straw/hay real cheap for bedding...or you can trade some cedar chips that they may want to use.  Or sell your chips to pet shops. Above all, if there is even a slight question about safety for your animals, pick a better more common option.  Better to spend more money using something safer than buying new animals or eating sick ones.               

Offline Cedar

  • Autarkist Queen
  • TSP Ultimate Ant
  • ************
  • Posts: 20670
  • Karma: 671
  • Dont wait for the storm to pass, dance in the rain
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 08:22:18 AM »
Cedar shavings (not me) are indeed hazardous to both humans and animals respiratory system as well as their livers.

The acids given off by pine and cedar shavings are very damaging to the respiratory tract.  These acids can actually destroy cells that line the lungs and trachea.  For a complete summary of the respiratory toxicity of pine shavings, go to Respiratory toxicity of cedar and pine wood.  This has significant implications for rats since the most common diseases in pet rats are respiratory infections.  Many owners of pet rats have reported the improvement of respiratory problems when they have switched their pets to a bedding other than pine or cedar shavings.

Cedar toxins also affect humans and other animals. People who work in cedar and pine sawmills have a much higher incidence of asthma compared to workers in other dusty environments or those without any dust exposure. Another study found that chickens kept on softwood shavings had a higher incidence of respiratory infections .


Wood chips, used as a mulch, can tie up nitrogen in the soil until they break down. Some wood chips/leaves like the black walnut or oak can pretty much sterilize your soil for years due to a natural herbicide in those trees to kill off competition, but I do not believe cedar will be this extreme. I would personally just use it for paths around your raised beds or walkways to your 'barn'.

Cedar
"Do not breathe simply to exist."

Offline endurance

  • Dances With Newfies
  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 9173
  • Karma: 420
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2011, 10:04:26 AM »
I have pine chip mulch from chipping the ponderosa limbs on my property.  It's cheap, it's available, and by chipping up the branches in my yard I'm reducing the wildland fire hazard for my property. 

With that said, if I could use a locust, ash or some other non-acidic tree for mulch, I would.  I would explore other options besides cedar.  If you do end up using cedar or any pine, make sure you're mixing it with other nitrogen-rich manures, like horse or cow manure.  I have an endless supply of the former (horse) and thus, I'm making soils by mixing the thin sandy/rocky soils with the abundant organic materials I have available.  While the wife does use cedar shavings in the loafing shed and there's always a little in the manure, volume-wise, I don't suspect it'll be a problem.  I'm probably going to have to add lime in the spring for next year's beds to counter the acidity, but then again, my tomatoes and blueberries will probably love it.  Gardening is always an experiment.  The more manure you have with the less cedar the better, the more cedar with the less manure the worse your results will likely be. 
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”   James Madison

Offline KYdoomer

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1976
  • Karma: 68
  • Zen Gardener
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2011, 10:06:29 AM »
I wouldn't use cedar.  I don't know anything about the respiratory side effects mentioned but the resistance to breaking down can either be a good or bad thing.  I put pine and cedar in my hugelkultur beds to give degrees of rot over time.  Sweet gum rots fast, pine less fast, cedar not fast at all.  So instead of having a large dump of material I get it over time.  There are a ton of misconceptions about the alleopathic qualities of pine and cedar.  The truth is that the terpenes are highly present in the needles but as the needles dry and become brown the terpenes float off into the air.  Remove the dry needle mulch and prevent the green needle seepage by removing them as they fall and you can grow grass under 50 foot pines.  I've done it.

Here, in your case cedar is not so good.  Pine might be a good choice but an even better choice would either be aspen shavings or wood fines mulch from Lowes. 

Personally I've used both, prefer the fines.

The wood is the carbon to the nitrogen in the chicken manure.  While the balance is WAY off the 25:1 ratio the wood will absorb the urea and ammonia in the waste and allow it evaporate off quickly.  In addition, the carboniferous wood acts as a net, locking in some ammonium and urea to allow the nitrifying bacteria to begin conversion into nitrates and nitrites (what you want).  Unless you add a ton of wood you won't get compost but instead well aged manure quickly and effectively.



These are my chickens in my garage (larger now though).  Beneath them is a large plastic tote.  At the bottom of that tote is a a layer of wood fines.  The poop falls through onto that layer.  Two days later I add another layer.  Repeat about two more times and then I empty it into my composter (still really just aging though).  A month or two later the aged stuff goes onto my garden. 



The brown stuff at the bottom (right on photo) is the "stuff".  The watermelon is growing IN it.  The beans are a little more yellow than normal but they are still growing so I'm not freaking out.

Hope that helps.

J

Offline KYdoomer

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1976
  • Karma: 68
  • Zen Gardener
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2011, 10:07:28 AM »
I have pine chip mulch from chipping the ponderosa limbs on my property.  It's cheap, it's available, and by chipping up the branches in my yard I'm reducing the wildland fire hazard for my property. 

With that said, if I could use a locust, ash or some other non-acidic tree for mulch, I would.  I would explore other options besides cedar.  If you do end up using cedar or any pine, make sure you're mixing it with other nitrogen-rich manures, like horse or cow manure.  I have an endless supply of the former (horse) and thus, I'm making soils by mixing the thin sandy/rocky soils with the abundant organic materials I have available.  While the wife does use cedar shavings in the loafing shed and there's always a little in the manure, volume-wise, I don't suspect it'll be a problem.  I'm probably going to have to add lime in the spring for next year's beds to counter the acidity, but then again, my tomatoes and blueberries will probably love it.  Gardening is always an experiment.  The more manure you have with the less cedar the better, the more cedar with the less manure the worse your results will likely be.

Great minds think alike.   ;D

Offline mikem

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 311
  • Karma: 14
  • ¿por qué so serious?
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2011, 10:37:58 AM »
And this is why I love the TSP Forums - Thank you all for sharing.. Looks like we'll be finding another solution besides cedar.

Offline endurance

  • Dances With Newfies
  • Global Moderator
  • Survival Veteran
  • ******
  • Posts: 9173
  • Karma: 420
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2011, 10:40:42 AM »
Great minds think alike.   ;D
Or as my more realistic British friends tell me:  Fools seldom differ.  ;D
"There are things that you don't question when your home always smells like baking bread."  From The Hunger Games

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”   James Madison

Offline mxitman

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1506
  • Karma: 95
  • Entrepreneur/HVAC Mechanic/Electrician
    • Heezy
Re: Cedar chips for chicken bedding / composting?
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2011, 09:40:13 PM »
Yea use the white wood shavings or pine shavings...plus they break down pretty fast. We use the deep litter method and the wood shavings work really well for this. We only got 4 hens and I only need to change out the litter every 4-6 months using this method. Then I put into the compost and it's ready to go by the next rotation...good luck
http://heezy.com/ http://ricksdiy.com

I'd rather have it and not need it, than not have it when I do need it.