Bedding material, also known as litter material, is one of the important equipment in poultry farming. Litter material has several benefits in poultry production, irrespective of the age of the chickens. They serve as a mop that takes up all wastes, especially the liquid ones passed out by the chickens.
There are several materials that can be used as bedding material for chickens. Sawdust and wood shavings are commonly used because they are readily available and can be cheaply sourced. Others are: rice bran, groundnut husk, kenaf stem; these can’t be easily sourced like sawdust and wood shavings.
Often times, farmers are always curious about the need for the best bedding in their pen; litter material that will provide the optimum comfort for the chicken always. Some farmers prefer wood shavings to sawdust while other crave sawdust always. What is so special about these bedding materials?
Read up as I unravel some key facts about these bedding materials and how best to use the two at different ages of the chicken without any negative effects on their performance.
Wood Shavings Vs Sawdust: Which Is The Best Bedding For Chickens
Firstly, before selecting any bedding material for your chickens, you must consider some characteristics. These characteristics are what makes the bedding material the best and superior to others. These are the characteristics of good bedding materials for chickens:
- The bedding must be absorbent: Any bedding you want to select must be absorbent; this means, it must be able to absorb water. A large percentage of the chicken waste is in liquid form; liquid in a poultry farm is very detrimental as it can harbor pathogen and cause deleterious poultry diseases like coccidiosis, hence, your litter material must be absorbent.
- It must not harbor pest: Yes, this is very important as well. The bedding you want to select must not be a host of poultry pest and diseases. Ensure it is clean and possibly sterilized before spreading.
- It must be readily available: As poultry production is not seasonal, so also the bedding you want to select must not be seasonal. The readiness of the availability of the litter material is very crucial.
- It must be cheaply available: If you want to select any bedding, it must not add to your initial cost of production. Your aim should be towards reducing the cost of production.
- It must be dry and friable: Do not spread wet bedding for your chicken. Wet bedding will undoubtedly harbor pests and cause infections. Always opt for dry bedding with dispersed particles.
Having all these at the back of your mind, it is now left for you to choose from the available litter materials. As stated earlier, bedding materials that are commonly used for chickens are:
- Wood shavings
- Rice barn
- Kenaf stem
- Groundnut husk
Rice barn, kenaf stem, and groundnut husk are non-conventional litter materials because they are not readily and cheaply available. Hence, farmers settle for wood shavings and sawdust for chicken bedding.
Sawdust and wood shavings are readily available and very cheap to get. They are the best bedding materials and play significant roles in keeping a poultry pen dry always.
The Comparative Advantage Of Wood Shavings And Sawdust As Bedding For Chickens
Using sawdust for chicken bedding is desirable because of its relatively small and fine particle size. Because of this small and fine particle size, sawdust has a large surface area to absorb moisture and other liquid wastes. However, using sawdust for day-old-chicks management is not desirable because of its fineness; this can easily cause respiratory disorder and irritation to the eyes of the chicks.
However, using sawdust as bedding in laying chickens raised in a battery cage system is very effective in cleaning moisture and other liquid wastes. Laying birds produce more liquid waste that chicks; with the fineness of the sawdust particles, you can be sure of having a dry environment always as the liquid waste can be easily and swiftly absorbed.
In terms of the respiratory disorder and irritation, these would barely occur if the laying chickens are raised in a battery cage system because the chickens do not have direct access to the sawdust. In a deep litter system, it is likely the laying chickens face the same problem the chicks face.
In the case of wood shavings, with relatively large particle size, the issue of respiratory disorder and irritation can be eliminated. However, because wood shavings have small surface area due to its large particle size, it absorbs moisture slowly compare to how sawdust absorbs. It does not absorb moisture as fast as sawdust does but with time, it will surely engulf the moisture.
Other fascinating advantages of wood shavings over sawdust are:
Wood shavings provide a cushion effect on the chicks. This effect aids younger chicks to gain balance while moving. Also, as the chicks grow and gain weight, the wood shavings adjust to the chicks’ new weight. This helps a lot in bone and muscular development.
Also, the transfer of heat is easier with wood shavings compare to sawdust. Warm air easily penetrates and goes deep into the wood shavings. This helps to maintain and regulate the temperature within the pen.
The two bedding materials are very good but wood shavings are more durable and can be termed the best bedding for chickens. However, the two can be used systematically in the farm without causing any issue.
Sawdust can be used for chicken in a battery cage, where they have no access to the bare floor or the bedding itself. Sawdust is best used for older chickens reared in battery cage system; because they produce more liquid waste and sawdust absorbs liquid faster and better than wood shavings.
Wood shavings are best used for young chicks and chickens, of any age, reared under deep litter system. Because it helps regulates temperature and insulates heat. Also, they have less tendency of causing respiratory disorder or irritation as seen in sawdust.
These two can be called the best bedding material for chickens when compared to other bedding materials listed above. The impact of bedding material is notable in poultry production; it is one of the essential tools needed to run a poultry farm successfully.
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