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#75029 - 05/17/08 03:00 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Foehn Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1973
Loc: New Zealand
I think the point here on wet straw or shavings is not the smell of poop, but rather the smell of ammonia, which is detrimental to the chooks delicate respitory system.
I use a fine sawdust/shaving/floss that comes off the the rather large bandsaw we use for cutting firewood. Most of this wood is macrocarpa, so it has a slightly "turpentine" smell about it. I don't find the fineness of it a problem because my hens use a ramp to walk up to their roosts (They're spoilt) so, no flapping equates to no desturbed dust, and that applies equally to dander, floating in the air.

Whether you compost in a heap or bin, or trench in the ground, you can speed up the decay of shavings and poop, or straw and poop very easily by the addition of EM (Effective Micro-organisms) and your soil no matter what type, or where you live, will love you for it. You should get a rich organic mulch within a few months, full of earthworms, and it's great for your plants.

Shavings will not be hanging round in the soil for 3-4 years if you do it this way (EM)Add a little lime to your heap as well, and not only will it smell sweeter, but the worms will be happier to oblige with the process of digestion. Shavings might not add much nutritionally to the soil, but they do add fibre, which is important if the soil you have is heavy clay.

#75030 - 05/17/08 09:57 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Malena Offline

Registered: 05/02/08
Posts: 19
Loc: Belgium
Now days I only have small housing for my chicks since we don't have cold winters here in Belgium and no predators to watch out for. I use to live in Sweden and keep all my chicks locked up over the winter in a bigger housing though. On the floors I always used sand -the cleaned sand you can by where they sell building material.
I cleaned every wekend but it took me ten minutes with a light rake and a shovel. The chickens loved it and you can sell the pure manure since it really is pure. I gave it to my mother and she boild it and poured it on the ground around her roses and she had the most beatiful roses in the area. It also keeps the chickens clean and mite free and it is good for their feet. I still use sand if I have small chickens. It keeps the warmt very well and a small area is easy to clean with the kind of spade you use to clean a cat's box. I use hay in their nests.

#75031 - 05/17/08 11:11 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Thanks Foehn for your input!

Yep, ammonia, I see, thanks! Sure, I agree. But I hope you agree on ammonia does not build in DRY straw, right? So you see, the question remains: where´s the difference?

Best greetings,

PS: No need to answer, just wanted to repeat the question!;-)

#75032 - 05/18/08 06:12 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
RuffEnuff Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 01/27/06
Posts: 1154
Loc: Australia
i live in a warm wet climate and find molds also grow in hay. mold spores and ammonia encourage respiratory disease and eye problems.

since i have moved to shavings i found i have far less problems. also shavings are better for the feather footed birds who cannot dig so well in hay but can in the shavings which tends to mix the droppings through the media and not accumulate on top and stick to the footings.

i buy the shavings by the trailer load from our local saw mill however i have to be quick to try and get dry shavings due to our very wet climate (like having to have a few dry days that don't happen on the week end). i do resort to damp shavings at times which do dry well and are not so bad if the weather is fine and the shed well ventilated. some of the training pens i don't have to clean...the chooks shovel it out and i just shovel more in.

#75033 - 05/20/08 10:48 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Chicken Wired Offline

Registered: 08/23/07
Posts: 51
Loc: California
Oh My Goodness. Malena, I would like to hear more about boiling poop and using it as fertilizer for roses. Did your mother use fresh poop or "seasoned"? (By that I mean chalky and hard.) And how often did she use it? I've been having some fun experimenting with my chicken's poop and combining it with different elements--lime, yard clippings, peat moss, etc, but I never thought to boil it. What a concept! Please tell me more so I can have prettier, brighter roses, too.

#75034 - 05/21/08 04:15 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Sue NH Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 11/15/04
Posts: 182
Loc: New Hampshire
Cost is a consideration too. Straw is expensive here in NH. I can get sawdust by the truckload for free at the mill around the corner. $5 if you want them to fire up the loader and fill your pickup.

Last time I checked at the feed store a bale of straw was nearly $10. I can buy feed hay for $3. I do mix some feed hay in the winter into the coop. Since I go for the free but finer sawdust rather than shavings the hay helps keep it from matting down too tight.

The only people who buy straw here are using them in birthing barns and stalls. It just got too expensive.

#75035 - 05/21/08 11:59 AM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Jojuan Offline

Registered: 05/15/08
Posts: 20
Loc: Oregon
Finally, I found a moment to sit and read the great replies. I'm so torn...attributes to both straw and shavings...and now there's sand to consider!

Garden-wise, shavings gobble up valuable nitrogen during their slow decomposition...the very thing I want my plants to get. Straw doesn't hog nitrogen, but I really value easy cleaning and healthy air in the coop.

* * * * RECIPE: Manure "Tea"
I've read that steeping a burlap bag of it in a barrel of water for a week, then diluting the tea by half (1:1) with water is a perfect and gentle fertilizer for any flower or vegetable.

Chickens just give and give and give! ;^)

#75036 - 05/21/08 01:00 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Uno Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 1283
Loc: Canada
To further muddy the waters...

The action of composting DOES gobble up nutrients, and thus should not happen IN the garden, but at a separate location. Any manure / bedding added to the garden should never be added fresh! Only after it has sat and aged in its own pile for a year or better.

The only shavings that get truly wet( in my hen house) are under the roost. That area is separated off by a board. They do not scratch the poopy shaving out much since they are contained. When I clean my hen house, I usually only shovel out the poo pit. I then scrape the less poopy and DRY shavings from the surrounding floor and throw that into the poo pit. Then I top up the floor area with more fresh shavings. Shavings in my hen house have a two stage life. First on the floor where they get mildy poopy but stay dry, then into the poo pit where they get all the roost droppings and get shovelled out when they are good and wet. But the rest of my floor is always dry.

I have used straw, I have used shavings. Straw weighs more when it's wet and harder to work with a shovel. I think straw requires a pitchfork when it is matted with poop. The shavings do form a rather solid chunk when thick with poop, but like cutting a waffle, I can slice it into chunks of any size I want with my shovel very easily. I find shoving a pitchfork into a mass of sticky straw and you end up lifting an area the size of a kichen table. This is awkward since my poo pit is under a fixed roost so I am shoveling underneath something, like trying to shovel out under a stairway. Shavings are more physically manageable for me.

I also use shavings since hubby works in cedar mill and they are in constant supply, often they arrive wet, as in the wood that made them was wet, but they dry rather quickly as the hens kick it around.

The main point is this..find out for yourself what works for you. Experiment. Section off the are under the roost so the poopiest bedding stays put and does not get all mixed around. This keeps the dirtiest bedding in one place, keeping the rest of your floor area drier and somewhat cleaner. As for chicken manure in the garden, I have great piles of it, years old, all fluffy with cedar shaving and I DO NOT put it in my garden! FOr that I have old horse manure that has no straw or hay or shavings in it at all. Just pure poop.

#75037 - 05/21/08 05:55 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Jojuan Offline

Registered: 05/15/08
Posts: 20
Loc: Oregon
Good point, Uno. Experiment. Who knows what will work best here in the Willamette Valley. You've given me the idea to try shavings in the poo pit and straw on the floor; although, your two-stage plan for shavings is brilliant.

Now, finding straw that hasn't been sprayed with a herbicide may be a challenge, but after a year in the compost pile, the straw mix will turn to "black gold" for my garden...whereas, the shavings mixture couldn't be used for years...not unless I want to add EXTRA nitrogen, and since it's a petroleum product, who knows what that might cost!

Thanks again. This thread has been most helpful.

#75038 - 05/29/08 09:47 PM Re: Straw vs. Shavings: Why the switch?
Gertie Bird Offline
New Egg

Registered: 11/28/06
Posts: 3
Loc: Oregon
sounds like things are getting heated up - just wanted to throw in the idea that we've been using peat moss as bedding in our coop and in our henhouse, after using both straw and wood shavings for several years (we got them free from a builder friend), and we've found that that the peat moss keeps the run tidier and way less stinky. we do throw in some straw - because the birds love to kick it around - but we'll never go back to straw or shavings if we can help it. peat moss works great!

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