Bedding for Baby Chicks
What to use as bedding for your baby chicks is an important consideration. Pine wood shavings are an obvious choice, but there are other things to consider before you fill your brooder with pine shavings.
I usually wait until my chicks are 3-4 weeks old before I use straight pine shavings in my brooder. I use big plastic storage bins or tubs for brooding my chicks. (A 45-gallon bin usually works nicely for between 6 and 25 chicks until they are about 4 to 6 weeks old.) The bottom or floor of the bin or brooder is smooth plastic though and is too slippery for the chicks to get good footing.
The number one priority, when choosing bedding, is providing enough support for proper leg and foot development in your chicks. Chicks grow fast, and if they don’t have firm ground to walk on without slipping, they can develop permanent leg and foot issues. Loose pine shavings sprinkled over a slippery, flat surface can, therefore, be a very wrong choice.
I start by placing a 1-2 inch layer of pine shavings in the bottom of the brooder. Then I lay some old bath towels or dish rags over the shavings, making sure to press the shavings down firmly and to tuck the towel around the edges, so the shavings are completely covered up. You can also use paper toweling, or I sometimes cut a piece of green, artificial-grass style ‘indoor-outdoor’ carpeting. The towel or carpet lets the chicks get a solid grip with their toes and nails, and the pine shavings underneath still provide absorption and help with masking odor. Sometimes young chicks can get confused and eat pine shavings which can lead to digestive issues, so that’s why I make sure that the shavings are covered up completely. Inevitably, some shavings will come loose, and the chicks will investigate them, but usually by the time they are one week old they know better than to eat the shavings.
To clean up during the first couple weeks, I usually just add paper towels on top of the original towel or carpet. This gives the chicks a nice new clear area. After 2-3 weeks, you should empty the whole bin and refill with new shavings and new toweling. After 4 weeks, I find that they scratch up the toweling faster than I can put it down, and I usually start using straight pine shavings as bedding.
Newspaper is also not a good choice. It is quite slippery to very young chicks, and it is not nearly as absorbent as toweling. It tends to get packed down and moldy as well.
Buy good quality pine shavings, that are not adulterated with other woods and debris. Don’t use cedar shavings; even though they smell very nice to us, the cedar oil is very drying and can irritate and injure the chicks’ skin as well as their lungs as they breathe in that scent. Don’t use sawdust or wood chips. And avoid dusty bedding like peat moss – chicks make enough dust all their own!
Want to learn more about caring for baby chicks? Check out our free Chick Guide!
I used the rubber type shelf liner over the pine shavings so my chicks could have traction over the pine. It was easy to wash off when things got stinky!
about sawdust press in bags 20 kg
for bedding chikens farms
Thanks for your comment, Sherer. We would NOT recommend sawdust as bedding at any age as the birds can inhale the fine particles and ingest them as well which can and most likely will cause health problems with your birds. We do recommend large-grade pine shavings (NOT CEDAR) as the best option, although there are many options available such as hay, straw, sand and the like. Thanks and have a great day!
What a great idea, Patricia! I might try this myself!
@sherer shlomo You’re kidding right?
Thank you for the above information. We just got our chicks a week ago. How often should you clean their bedding. I have about 4 inches of pine shavings and cover them with paper towels. I replace the paper towels 3 times a day. I didn’t think it was good if they were running around and sleeping in the mess. I thought that could make them sick. I also clean out their water at least 2 times a day. It has a terrible smell if I leave it all day. Is that because of the pine shavings? Also, do you recommend medicated feed or not? My chicks appear to be healthy.
Hi Karen! It sounds like you have a wonderful set up for your chicks! You’ve implemented some great ideas and thoughtfulness. As far as the water, I think it may be the mixture of moisture and everything in the environment so yes, cleaning it a couple times a day is great! The medicated feed is recommended over the Cocci spray, for sure, but it’s definitely a personal choice. If you are against medications in your poultry, I would say no. But if you’re worried about your birds contracting cocci, I would say yes. I know it’s wishy washy, but it’s honest, and I hope it helps! Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you can think of anything additional that we can help with. Have a beautiful weekend!
Thank you Shannon! We are trying to stay away from the medicated feed, with the thinking that they aren’t sick. But if cocci is easy to catch and it could prevent it, I’m all for it. Thank you again! Hope you enjoy your weekend too!
Can I use paper bedding?
You sure can! I use 2-3 inches of non-cedar wood shavings and cover that with paper toweling. Then I only have to change he paper toweling out and viola! Clean brooder! This also helps keep the babies from eating shavings. Note that after the first week or two, you’ll want to switch out to a more typical bedding for cost-effectiveness, and we do not recommend shredded newspaper and the like as it carries a host of issues with it such as inks that can be toxic, the inability to contain the moisure, and the slipperyness of the paper when it’s wet. I hope this helps! ~Shannon
can i put paper towels on top of hay for my day old chicks
What about using paper bags (grocery bags)? Our chicks are now almost 2 weeks old and the shavings stink really bad after less than 1 day. Any suggestions?
Paper bags will work, but I imagine they will get slimy. I would suggest trying the wood chips, honestly, cuz they are absorbent so that helps. Also, elevate their water over a “drip pan” to help alleviate the “mud”. I use a cake pan and a small cooling rack on top of it cuz it fits in the brooder. Sprinkle a little barn lime over the top of the bedding and you will almost make 2 whole days without smelling it! Lastly, when ours got older, we attached a second plastic tote to the end of the first one, put a pet waterer in the second box, and cut a hole from one to another which allowed us to give them enough water to dunk their nostrils but not make a huge mess of the whole brooder. Necessity is the mother of invention and I think you’ll find great success if you follow these tips. Also.. send me a picture if you do! I’d love to see how you do it!
What about grass clippings? It’s abundant and when it’s dry can soak up any fluids? Just trying not to spend a lot.
Hi often should I change the bedding, they will be 3 weeks old.
We do recommend changing the bedding at a minimum of once per day.
I would not recommend using grass clippings. There can be bacteria like coccidiosis or parasites in clippings and if the chicks ingest them you’ll end up with a group of sick lethargic birds or worse. I would recommend sticking with the store-bought pine shavings. The label should mention that they were heated to prevent bacterial growth.
I’m a first time chick mama and excited about this adventure. I’m using pine pellets for the bedding in the brooder. Should I use paper towels or some other type of covering on top of the pellets or can I leave them the way it is? They seem to be doing well with just the pellets. How often should I clean the bedding and when I do should I replace all of it or strain it like I would do with cat litter? I’m guessing I should replace all of it. Thanks for your time.
Welcome to being a chick mama! It’s a lot of fun. The pine pellets will work okay in their brooder as bedding. If they are doing well on it,I would avoid the paper towels for now. I recommend putting down a layer of about 1/2 to 1 inch and cleaning it out once daily as a minimum. You want to remove all the bedding from their brooder and clean it out well with mild soap and water or cleaning vinegar works well too. Chicks are more susceptible to Coccidiosis before they reach 11 weeks of age so maintaining the brooder daily helps keep out the extra fecal matter that can cause that Cocci bacteria to circulate.
We used pine flakes for our bedding when we had our chicks. They were so messy. In order to make clean-up easy, we laid paper towels over the flakes and replaced it whenever it was soiled, day and night (just rolled up the paper towels). We didn’t have to replace the pine flakes as often since we always replaced the paper towels. We had 18 chicks and they all stayed healthy and are now a little over 2 years old.
First time here and used newspaper s and changed often had light. For heat, the chicken feed, weedness, dried clumps on my babies feet
I use my paper shredder and junk mail for paper bedding for the chicks and it works great. I use shredded paper in a cardboard box. Very absorbent and cheap. Yes, they do peck it like a worm sometimes, and I keep the water up and clean it often but a few pieces get in there, but they do not eat it and I have had no problem at all. I shred all my junk mail etc.,, even with the cellophane pieces, there is no problem. Change it regularly and you are good to go.
I have some Timothy and Alfalfa hay can I put that down for my baby chicks? Should I put paper towel over the hay if it’s ok to use ?
I am new chick mommy too…my chicks are almost three weeks and are in big plastic bin with pine shavings and they are pecking at them but its hard to tell if they’re curious or actually eating them…they love their food and eat regularly. I am low on paper towels because they are hard to find here because of corona virus. should i put something over them or continue to let them sleep in the pine directly.?
You can leave the chicks on the pine shavings. You do not need to add paper towels over the top. They will pick around them a bit to get to bits of grain but they do not eat the shavings. We actually recommend pine shavings for chicks for the first 4-6 weeks in the brooder/grow out pen.
We recommend using pine shavings as bedding for your chicks for the first 4-6 weeks because they have been heat treated I would avoid Timothy and Alfalfa because of bacteria that can be present in the organic material, but if you don’t have other bedding available right now with quarantine, I would suggest putting the paper towel down without the hay at all and changing it daily. Or using newspaper also works in a pinch.
Great idea! You can certainly use old newspaper or junk mail. It’s a good option especially if you have a paper shredder at home and can’t get out right now with quarantine.Thank you for sharing!
That is one drawback to using newspaper. It does work okay, but they can develop those dried clumps on their feet from the paper and feed dust when it becomes damp and then dries. It becomes similar to a pulp or paste and can be very hard to get off. Soak their feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes and those clumps should fall right off. If you continue using newspaper, just keep change your bedding daily and check feet daily also for any build-up and remove it right away.
Hi! My chicks are about a week old. I have been using paper towels at the bottom of their brooder, replacing them three times a day. Today I noticed a few of the chicks are beginning to shred the paper towels with their feet and I saw one if them eat it! One of the chicks grabbed a piece then was running around with it while all the others chased her! It was very cute, and I was laughing until I saw that bit of paper go down!!
Anyway, I was wondering if they would be okay, and also if I should switch to the pine shavings at this point? I have some chick grit as well which I was saving until they were a little older and I started to give them a few treats.. should I put that out now to help to digest the paper for any that might have eaten it? I only saw one eat a piece, bit who knows what they’ve been up to!
Thanks for posting all this info on here, your website is a very helpful resource!!
Bought fine pine shavings by mistake, chicks are 5 days old and scratching. They eat tbeir fine, bit will they eat fine wood?
Thank you for all the great information. Just starting out I feel a bit more confident I raising chicks!
Shoot typo in my last post:
Should read in raising chicks.
What will happen if I use bounty for chicken bedding?
Should I use paper towels(Bounty) for a chickens bedding?
I also bought fine pine shavings by mistake (didn’t read till later that larger pine shavings are recommended since chicks can swallow the fine stuff). Do they really eat it? Should I exchange it? Chicks area on their way and should arrive day after tomorrow… Farm store is an hour drive and I’m working tomorrow, so don’t want to go unless I really need to….
I did have one barred rock chick in the past that got very sick from eating a paper towel at day 2. She was behind the others for weeks although she eventually recovered fully and lived to be 11 years old with a fine personality.