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The Best Bedding For Baby Chicks


This means that we get baby chicks every single year…and they’re always a blast!

Those fuzzy little chirpers are just amazing to watch and engage with. But while chickens are one of the more hardier livestock animals to have in your backyard, baby chicks are not invulnerable to injury.

Their toes are very long and their bodies somewhat top-heavy. This type of anatomy can mean high levels of stress at the joints – and that’s in the best of conditions. Newly hatched chicks have it even worse as it takes a little time for them to develop good muscle strength and coordination.

For this reason, it is absolutely critical that you provide a good bedding material for your brand new birds to walk and run around on.

It has been our experience that pine shavings are the best bedding material for baby chicks.

Newspaper Vs. Pine Shavings

One thing that has always frustrated me about raising chickens is the amount of people out there who love to brag about how they did something cheaper. This is not necessary as chickens are one of the least expensive animals to raise – considerably cheaper (over the life of the animal) than say a dog or cat.

Using newspaper for bedding is one of those popular ‘penny saving ideas’ that is actually very dangerous for your baby chicks.

Newspaper can be very slippery. And as mentioned above, joint injury is a very real risk to your baby bird.

At some point, your baby chick is going to start running around like all youngsters do. If they are running around on slippery material, they are very likely going to twist or hyper-extend something. This type of injury can be permanent.

Paper Towel Vs. Pine Shavings

Paper towels actually make a lot more sense than one might think. They are not as slippery as newspaper and are generally readily available in your house. However, there are two main flaws that prevent paper towels from being the recommended bedding.

First, is that paper towels are designed to absorb water. This means that any water that is spilled as they walk through the waterer is going to stay on site – where your baby chick is sitting and sleeping.

And wet chicks get chilled easily.

The second reason that paper towels are less than ideal is because baby chicks like to scratch and peck. This might not be an issue with day old chicks, but as they get older, they are going to be quite capable of shredding a paper towel in just a manner of seconds – rendering the ‘bedding’ useless.

Sand Vs. Pine Shavings

To be honest, I’m not quite sure where the idea of using sand for bedding came from. While it is true that water will sink through sand, removing excessive moisture from the immediate area, sand is not always easily acquirable nor is it as easy to work with than pine shavings.

A quick price check (at the time of this writing) shows pine shavings to be less than a dollar per cubic foot and available year round at your local Tractor Supply Store.

They are also light enough to be removed with a plastic dust pan, the soiled contents added to the composter.

So while sand might not be as directly dangerous to your baby chicks as newspaper, it certainly doesn’t compete to the practicality of pine shavings.

## Special Note ##

If you do choose to go with sand, please be extremely mindful of heating. Heat lamps can put out a lot of heat, so the surface of the sand might get fairly hot. Also, sand has quite a bit of mass, so if the temperature of the broody gets too hot, it might be somewhat challenging to cool things off in a timely manner.

Straw Vs. Pine Shavings

Another common substitute for bedding is straw.

Straw shares quite a bit in common with pine shavings. Both are light and do an excellent job of keeping the chicks up and away from any spilled water. Straw can be a little more challenging for baby chicks to navigate – especially when first hatched, but if straw is the only thing available, then it can do the job.

However, one should understand that straw usually contains a fair amount of dust. And too much dust can cause respiratory issues, as well as irritate their eyes.

We only use straw when mama hen has had a chance to sit on things for a while. The oil from her feathers seems to mitigate the excessive dust.

Pine Shavings Make The Best Bedding For Baby Chicks

So beyond any doubt, pine shavings make the best bedding material for your new baby chicks. The shavings are generally available in two different sizes; fine and course.

Our experience has shown that fine shavings are better for the chicks when they’re younger as their feet are smaller and they tend to stumble a bit with the bigger shavings when they’re racing around the brooder. Somewhere around week four they will ‘graduate’ to the bigger shavings as these are a little more resilient to being flung into the feeder and waterer.

Just make sure that you are purchasing ‘pine only’. There are some shavings on the market that are mostly pine with other things added. This can be bad as cedar shavings are actually toxic to the baby chicks.

For more on baby chicks and pine shavings, check out ‘Baby Chicks Eating Pine Shavings’.