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#75019 - 05/16/08 10:07 PM Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Jojuan Offline
Feather

Registered: 05/15/08
Posts: 20
Loc: Oregon
Hi! I'm new to The Coop. I had chickens 20 years ago when it was pretty standard in Eastern Oregon to use deep straw on the coop floor. While composting, straw produces heat for the hens during the winter.

Now, after reading dozens of posts, I see that cedar and pine shavings are the common practice.

I'm open to new ideas, but need to understand. Can anyone tell me the reason for the move away from straw?

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#75020 - 05/16/08 10:30 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8442
Loc: Montana
Straw absorbs moisture and stays moist (WET), needs cleaning out quite often. That "heat" is better added to the compost pile! Dry kilned shavings stay dry for weeks/months. They do not absorb and keep moisture--are certainly lighter and much easier to clean out 3 or 4 times a year!

Try them and you will celebrate the difference! CJR

I live on a farm, with barley and/or wheat straw every fall--and it is NOT used in my poultry houses any longer (actually not for years), except to line nest boxes!

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#75021 - 05/16/08 10:57 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Good Morning Jean,

Quote:
Dry kilned shavings stay dry for weeks/months. They do not absorb and keep moisture
Hmmmmm, okay, but then what does this dry shavings do at all? Now you got me confused!LOL! If it doesnīt absorb moisture and poop then whatīs it good for? Could you explain how it works? Iīm only curious, not meant to offend you.

Best greetings,
Joachim

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#75022 - 05/17/08 05:40 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Rhea Dean Carter Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/24/03
Posts: 1379
Loc: Tennessee
Joachim:

It's difficult to explain, but there is a big difference. The shavings absorb moisture, but they don't hold moisture like hay or straw. They tend to dry out rather quickly whereas hay or straw doesn't. I've never used hay or straw in my pens, but I've seen piles of it left over in the fields from feeding cattle, and it's usually damp or even wet down under it--even after it's been laying there for several weeks without any rain. It's not like that with wood shavings, and I, like Jean, think using wood shavings is a much better choice.
_________________________
Rhea Dean

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#75023 - 05/17/08 09:31 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Eric19 Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 07/25/07
Posts: 197
Loc: Michigan
So CJR, you said you only clean your coop 3-4 times a year?!? I guess shavings must really work!!! I personally use straw still and have been for about a year now. And I got to tell you, I really have to change! I clean my coop every 2-4 weeks and it is a pain!lol So I really have to go buy some cedar shavings! Oh yeah, are the cedar shavings the one in the big plastic bag-like things, that they use for rabits and other animals?
Thanks!
Eric

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#75024 - 05/17/08 10:13 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello Rhea Dean,

interesting, thanks! From my experience (wood?) shavings indeed react differently to fluid poop: it "sticks" together into big, hard, stinky chunks. Have heard this also from rabbit/cat breeders, it "forms" urine-chunks that stink. Hmmm...;-)

As for the leftover piles of straw and hay: those piles must be wet to rot faster/better, some farmers even sprinkle water onto their piles to accelerate the rotting process. We have several such "piles" also, they "rot" a bit more than half-a-meter per year in our environment/weather. I mean if you build a pile of 1 meter height it "rots" to less than half-a-meter in about a year. Iīm not sure if "rot" is the right term, infact it kinda transforms into good and "rich" soil which is super for plants.

Thatīs a big "con" for shavings and a big "pro" for straw, BTW. Used straw (and hay) can be brougth back onto the fields to enrich the soil, shavings can NOT. Not if you donīt want to "harm" your soil that is. Some befriended farmers have told me this. I think straw (or hay, or hemp, or whatever) makes a more natural "circle" compared to other shavings. Other shavings when used and pooped onto are waste, used/pooped straw is fertilizer. Straw is sustainable.

Just out of curiosity: what happens with all the poop in those shavings? Poop in straw gets "caught/stuck" and is easy to remove, but does poop stick onto those shavings, also?

Best greetings my Friend!
Joachim

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#75025 - 05/17/08 10:35 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8442
Loc: Montana
Poop just dries , and as the chicken scratch, it just dries quickly, and incorporates into the debris, DRY and not sticky, never any generation of ammonia, like smelly, wet straw, (unless you spill a water bucket and do not replace the resulting wet shavings with dry ones!) Addition of some fresh shavings from time to time, refreshes the accumulation, and keeps the Poultry Coop from smelling like POOP! When I clean out a pen--several inches of dry, dirty shavings, I sweep the plywood floor, and it is dry and almost as clean as new. Often it is acclumulation of feathers after molt that generates "cleanout time". Some feather piles can be picked up from the corners, but at real molt time, when its over, it means a nice renewed pen that smells "clean"--not like cedar (that nice odor leaves in a very short time)! And there is no harm from the aroma of cedar! The pieces are larger than baby chicks should be bedded on, otherwise it will not harm them-Pine shavings are finer. And still Pine lasts quite well,(and composts faster), but I just use it for chicks--after about 6 weeks, and for them while growing up.

And as for composting, the shavings, well integrated with the dry poop, makes a wonderful mulch for small fruit, or that composts to excellent growing medium for the garden!It takes longer, of course, but the result is very good.

The forests are healthy and renewed because of the wood product left on the ground, resulting from their age and decay. Modern forestry removes the trees that would add to the fertility and depth of forest soils. It also works well for your own soils. The more moisture added (same as for wetting down straw, grass, etc. compost) the faster the decay. Same for the forests--the coastal forests, where they remain, get a lot more rainfall, grow terrific "understory" of plant life. The dryer, inland regions, have less under growth, and the wood products take longer to "compost" and add to the soil.

DRY Shavings for poultry is superior to straw for the health of the birds, as well as the work of their caretakers.

For the skeptics--try it--the depth of shavings can be by trial. Summer, for my birds, that get out on green grass for part of most days, means just a good floor cover of shavings, and in winter, add depth of several inches--never more than they can move about scratching! (Some people like it really deep, but that can accumulte moisture at the floor, and I do NOT want that)--I want dry floors under the bedding. You just may like it ! And if you do not--just continue with what you like-my back appreciates shavings that a scoop shovel can fill and I can still lift. CJR

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#75026 - 05/17/08 11:59 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Thanks Jean,

for taking the time to explain! Though, a direct comparison with numbers would be great;-) For example how much poop (the amount in kg or lbs) for how much shavings, meaning how much shavings do you have in 1 coop and how many birds do poop how much onto this shavings?

You know itīs funny. Your post sounds like straw stinks in contrary to shavings. But I think this is not the "whole truth"!LOL! You say you renew the used/wet shavings to keep th ecoop from smelling like poop. Well, hmmm, how do I write it? We use straw. I renew the used/pooped straw as well as you replace your shavings, so no difference here. Simply because NEW shavings donīt stink as well as NEW straw doesīnīt stink! Itīs the WET straw that stinks, I agree on this one. But please donīt tell me WET shavings donīt stink, this is simply not true. Wet shavings will stink the same as wet straw will stink or wet hay or wet whatever, see what I mean? There is no difference to me;-)

Of course you are right on composting, I should have written more exact what I mean. I think we can agree on shavings rot WAY slower than straw/hay, right? It takes YEARS for shavings to rot and only MONTHS for straw to rot, I tried both and saw the difference clearly. Shavings can be found "undigested" by the soil 3 or 4 years after deposit - straw is "digested" after 15-20 months. The next "step" would be stones. Stones also "rot" to enrich the soil, but even slower than shavings. Grinded stones are ferilzer as well as shavings or shreddered straw.

Maybe the difference is only the AMOUNT of bedding used? I agree on one needs more straw than shavings to get the same results maybe? But then, straw is way cheaper than shavings. Could you "convert" your usage of shavings to straw? For example we use 1,000 bales of straw per year, so how much shavings would we need if we would want to swithch?

A bale of straw costs around 80 cents to buy and 1,000 kilos used straw costs 25 $ per ton to recycle. 1,000 bales are around 8 tons, so total costs of bedding is 1,000 new bales for 80 cent each plus 250 $ for recycling 10 tons (8 tons straw plus 2 tons poop) used straw makes around 1,000 bucks (1,050 $ to be exact) per year for our bedding.

EDIT:
As for the converting: 1 bale of straw = 0.09 cubic meters = 3.25 cubic feet = 8 kg = 17 lbs. Thatīs around half as heavy as 1 pack of shavings = 3.25 cu ft = 38 lbs = 17 kg. So 1 pack of shavings is around twice as heavy as 1 bale of the same sized (meaning the cubic meters) straw. I did a search and found this:

http://www.hayexchange.com/bedding/search_bedding.php

They sell 3.25 cu ft shavings for around 4 $, so 1,000 packs of shavings would be, errrrm, 4,000 bucks!!! Well, thatīs a difference, uh? But maybe because itīs twice as heave it also absorbs twice as good and so one needs only half as much? But this still would be 2,000 bucks only for buying the shavings. What does recycling the shavings cost over there per ton? Eitherway only the buing is twice as expensive as straw, so if we add the recycling costs it sure is way more expensive than straw, right? Or does one need even less packs? Again, my initial question was how many packs of shavings can one substitute for 1,000 bales of straw? This would sure be an interesting clculation, donīt you also think so?;-)

Best greetings,
Joachim

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#75027 - 05/17/08 01:31 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8442
Loc: Montana
Let's go back to wet shavings. My example was IF I SPILLED a BUCKET of WATER? I have done this several times in 15 years. The wet shavings were removed immediately! (and spread out, allowed to dry out on the Shop floor, to be used again, when dry!) My pens have NO WET SHAVINGS, hence no "chicken-poopy" smell--!!

The considerable amount of droppings in the cedar shavings, dry and powdery, provide the extra nitrogen, to hasten the compost process--more so than wet straw. Straw compost tends to harden because of its finer texture and is not as easy to cultivate or must be well worked into native soil. The remainder of some larger pieces in the Shavings compost adds to texture of the compost, good for plants.

I shall say no more. We live in different climates, different soils,different trees for shavings--and I find Cedar Shavings (at our cost) to be well worth it for the health and ease of care of my bantams. I am also a Gardener, Flowers, Landscape, Vegetables, Fruits, small fruits and trees as many kinds as our COLD climate permits, and I have shared my experiences of many years--we each have our own! CJR

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#75028 - 05/17/08 02:31 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hehehe,

I donīt want to quarrel Jean! So what is "your cost" of cedar shavings? Is this a secret?LOL! To stay fair and able to compare we need NUMBERS;-)

Oh, before I forget: letīs stay realistic. Of course neither wet straw nor wet shavings does smell like chicken poop. So please explain to us why wet straw should smell like poop and wet shavings should not? Sounds like wishful thinking to me;-) As you might know birds "produce" moisture, so why should this "wet" straw smell like poop at all??? I still canīt follow your logic why shavings should be "better" at all, sorry!;-)

EDIT:
From our own experience: we have only raised chicks twice without a cluckie hen. So we had to build a large "housing" for them and used 2 different beddings to compare. We used shavings once and straw the other time. I needed about the SAME AMOUNT of bedding each time. The 1 pack of shavings did cost well over 8 bucks and lasted exactly as long as the 1 bale of straw - which did cost 80 cents...

Oh, last thing before I go to sleep:
Quote:
My pens have NO WET SHAVINGS, hence no "chicken-poopy" smell--!!
Hehehe! Same here: My pens have no wet straw, hence also no poop smell!;-) Sorry Jean to be repetitive, but where is the difference (except for the price)???

Another last thing;-) While visiting a breeder I noticed he had shavings for his bantams and straw for his Brahmas and Austrolorps(sp?). So maybe the heavy birds "sink into" the shavings too much, straw is more "solid", right?

Best greetings,
Joachim

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