Chickens are marvelous creatures, and they can be quite lovely to keep in your backyard or on your smallholding. Well-kept chickens provide an idyllic farm-style ambiance, and if you’re lucky, fresh eggs to serve with your breakfast!
While they are generally quite carefree and easy to look after, there are a few nuances to chicken-keeping that cannot be overlooked.
Whether you keep chickens as a hobby or as part of a larger operation, the health and well-being of your animals are generally your first priority.
This is especially true given that chickens seem to pass away from unknown causes all the time. Before you invest in or adopt a flock of chickens, it’s best to research how to house them most effectively and how to keep them safe.
If you’re new to owning chickens, or you’ve just built or enclosed a run, you may be wondering what bedding to line your coops with.
There has long been a debate about whether to use cedar shavings for chickens, and this post will explore the answer to that question in-depth. In short, it’s a resounding no. Cedar shavings are not safe for chickens and should be avoided at all costs.
Are Cedar Shavings Safe For Chickens?
Cedar shavings are not safe for chickens because cedarwood contains plicatic acid. This acid wreaks havoc on their respiratory systems and damages their other organs.
When inhaled, plicatic acid starts to break down the vital, life-giving cells in a chickens’ airways and lungs, causing respiratory distress, long-term asthma, and eventual death.
The aromatic compounds embedded in cedar are also known to have damaging effects on chickens’ lungs.
Plicatic acid, which is also considered carcinogenic for humans, is a toxic substance that is easily inhaled through the dust particles released by shaved wood. It is an irritant for human lungs, so imagine how easily it can affect the small lungs of chickens.
Once inhaled, it causes respiratory cells to break down, making it difficult for chickens to breathe correctly. This has a knock-on effect on the other organs that receive insufficient oxygen.
Similarly, cedar shavings contain aromatic phenols, which gives cedarwood its distinct, pungent smell. These phenols, which repel insects, rodents, and other small animals, work hand in hand with plicatic acid to damage cell health and can impact the liver severely.
Too much exposure to the poisonous substances in cedar shavings can prevent your chickens from processing toxins and create ongoing health issues.
Can You Use Cedar Shavings For Chickens?
There has been an ongoing argument about cedar shavings for chickens for decades, but the answer is no, you cannot and should not use cedar shavings for chickens.
While some argue that chickens can live for years with no issues resulting from cedarwood, there is resounding evidence to support the fact that it can cause lasting respiratory problems and, consequently, death.
And what’s more, it is argued that chicks raised on cedar shavings are unlikely to survive into adulthood, and if they do, it may be with severely stunted growth.
If you’re laying cedar shavings down as bedding for adult chickens, they may suddenly start to suffer from phlegm, wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing. Any of these are a sign of respiratory distress and should be attended to as a matter of urgency.
At the end of the day, it simply isn’t worth the risk. There are plenty of safer, cheaper options to use as bedding for your chickens that won’t harm them and cause them pain and distress. You also won’t have to contend with cedarwood’s strong scent.
From a purely practical point of view, the damage caused by cedar shavings is often irreversible, which can cause a major loss on your chicken investment.
Which Is Better For Chickens: Pine Or Cedar Shavings?
Pine shavings are better for chickens, as cedar shavings are harmful. Even so, if you intend to use pine shavings, you should opt for bigger pine chips and veer strongly away from sawdust or very fine shavings that are dusty and easily inhaled.
White pine is considered safe for chickens, it is still not your best option and can also contain damaging compounds and acids, much like cedar.
Pine shavings are an even more hotly contested issue than cedar shavings, as there is plenty of evidence to both support and negate whether pine is suitable for chicken coops.
Many argue the negatives of pine shavings include accidental inhalation causing respiratory issues and the fact that pine also contains harmful aromatic compounds.
On the other hand, there is plenty of support for how easy pine is to maintain and for its powerful absorption powers. Either way, both camps agree it is infinitely better than cedar.
Ultimately, however, if you are not wont to put your chickens at risk, you can explore the many other, safer bedding options that are also often cheaper.
Straw, recycled paper, and sand all make excellent coop linings and won’t leave you wondering if your chickens are going to develop respiratory distress. On the downside, they are not as easy to clean, but arguably, this inconvenience is worth the peace of mind.
Raising chickens and keeping them safe can be arduous, but if you get your fundamentals right from the start, the journey is bound to be a lot easier. Your chickens will spend a lot of time in their coops, and it is paramount that you provide them with a safe environment to thrive and provide you with a bountiful egg harvest in turn. Cedar shavings for chickens are not worth the risk. While it is entirely possible that your chickens will turn out fine, there is an even greater chance that they won’t. Stick to proven safe options and rest easy, knowing your chickens will be okay.