Necessity they say is a mother of invention. The Corona virus pandemic has had its impact on poultry production in Ghana; from low patronage of poultry products to shortage of necessary poultry product amidst the lock-down period.
In this write up, we will be shedding light on some other materials you can use as bedding material for your birds.
In animal production, the term LITTER simply means bedding or covering material. In Ghana, Wood shavings (Saw dust) are the commonly used litter material to cover the floor of a deep-litter Penn and also used as a receiving material in cage system,
A good litter material should be highly absorbent. (I.e. ability to absorb water and other moisture) have low thermal conductivity or poor heat conductor, be free of toxins, mycotoxins or contaminants like metals and pesticides. It should be non-toxic or non-poisonous to birds, have a short drying time and be able to decompose fast or reused as organic manure. Above all it should be relatively INEXPENSIVE and READILY AVAILABLE.
During the lockdown period, the major challenge that most farmers using the deep-litter system faced was the scarcity or unavailability of wood shavings; mainly because saw mill companies were not working within the period. Also in rural area some farmers don’t have access to sufficient wood shaving while some are unable to get. Mostly, those in semi-urban or remote areas where there are no wood milling industries are faced with either of the aforementioned.
If getting wood shavings is your challenge, the under listed are other alternatives that can be used as litter materials.
Sand is not a new litter material in poultry production but care must be taken over particle size when being used. It is a good bedding material even though it may be slightly moist, have Lower temperature and could be expensive than other traditional bedding materials depending on which part of the country you are.
Personally I prefer sand from sea shore i.e. Sea sand because such sand are sterile with the salty water from the sea but always ensure the sand is dry before use. Its use has generated renewed interest arousing some studies in its use comparing flocks raised on sand and flocks raised on wood shavings.
One study showed that Cocks kept on sand were significantly heavier with no difference noted among Hen. There was no difference between the sand raised and shavings raised flocks in terms of feed conversion or mortality and while initially, the moisture content of the sand litter was higher, as time passed this difference disappeared. Additionally, there was no difference in ammonia levels.
The use of sand as poultry litter can be an excellent substitute for wood shavings and but there are factors that should always be kept in mind:
- The sand should be brought to the right temperature before chicks are placed;
- The size of sand particles should be given consideration so as not cause problems for the machines that remove the gizzard;
- As sand is denser than shavings or hulls, the level of litter will rise more slowly as it is topped up for each flock. It will also last for much longer in the poultry shed;
- Cleaning sand can be much faster and disinfection more efficient, as sand is an inert material. It can be flame disinfected, removing organic material in one go, without the risk of the litter igniting;
- Depending on your location, the cost of sand can be much higher than more traditional litters, but the advantages that it offers can outweigh this cost.
You don’t see farmers using this much but it’s a great material for bedding that we should bring to your attention.
Rice husk can be easily found in the Northern, Savannah, Oti and Volta region of Ghana. They’re often discarded by rice farmers but very useful in poultry.
Rice Husk are typically free from excessive dust and their size, thermal conductivity and drying rate make them another good choice for bedding.
Aside been cheap, locally available and providing extra hunts to your scratch-searching chickens, ducks etc. Rice Husks has the following advantages:
- Does not absorbs water
While clumps of Rice Husks can retain water in large quantities, overall the material has no capacity to retain water which means most liquids quickly sink to the bottom. If you have a well-drained floor (or using Rice Husks over a think weed cloth over a metal mesh), the bedding will stay mostly dry. This is especially great with ducks and ducklings as they are messy with their water.
Because it doesn’t retain moisture, it doesn’t grow mould or any other bacteria like wet shavings.
- Easily Managed
Due to its particle size, Rice husk are easy to spread, mix level, and remove. This means NO CAKING in your Penn unlike what we see with our usual wood shaving.
- Produces Useful Dust
Dust from bedding can be a problem for Poultry that’s why it’s not advisable to use sawdust as bedding. Diseases like infectious Coryza and CRD has been traced to rise of excessive dust in the Penn
Rice Husk dust has proven to be extremely useful when using the deep litter system. Any poop falling on the bedding gets immediately covered in a thin layer of dust and hulls, making it non-sticky and it dries much faster. Placed at least 3 inched thick, farmer don’t bother removing any bedding or poop anywhere for a longer time compared to Wood shaving.
- Has very minimal or no odour
Wood shavings, have a very strong scent which together with urine can be very intense and offensive to both fowl and people. Rice Husks have no smell at all therefore reduces the rise of ammonia in the penn. The only smell would be from the feed.
This is mostly because the poop (both on the bedding and under the roost) dries up extremely fast thanks to the Rice Husks.
Dry Grass Chippings
Well dried Grass chipping has been one of the best choices of bedding for my laying nest.
Just as it would do to your chicken eggs; it provides a secured foundation for chickens’ legs and feet, a good way to gather droppings quickly and the ability to easily clean your birds’ housing
If they’re locally available, grass clippings are one viable coop bedding option, but they have a few disadvantages. Clippings tend to retain moisture and break down quickly. They also dry, shrink and smell if not well managed.
Grass chippings are easy to remove. So no extra stress on your farmhand on a cleaning day.
If you have enough dried grass chippings or would prefer to use it be sure they’re not sourced from a garden/ yard that was sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or other chemicals. Your Chickens may pick at chipping and get be poisoned.
Gather the grass yourself. Be sure it’s free from dirt, disinfect and dry in the sun for at least 14 days before use
Shredded dried leaves are excellent bedding for your poultry penn. Dried leave from mango, pear, Neem, basil and plantain used as litter have been found to be medicinal as well. In the Northern region where Baobab and dried oak leaves are common, they’re perfect substitutes for your bedding as they don’t mat together.
In other countries where Hemp is common and legal, its bedding is one of the best types of bedding available for Poultry farmers, or any animal owner for that matter. Essentially, hemp bedding is made from the stalk of the cannabis plant known as the hurd. Hemp bedding is an odourless, absorbent and organic product that will not only help keep your coop stay cleaner for longer, but will also act as a natural pesticide, which will keep all sorts of creepy crawlies out of your coop.
Leaves are inexpensive and widely available each fall.
To avoid a stinky matted mess when using shredded leaves, be sure it is well dried before placing in your penn.
Maize or Corn cobs
Do you remember in the village when you use to crush Corn in bags with a stick so you can get the grains off?
The soft crushed cobs that are sieved and discarded are very important material you can use in your penn.
Crushed Corn cob bedding is ideal for your poultry bedding because it’s heavier and stays longer in the penn. It is easily replaced and clumps easily removed when soiled.
Aside being a good replacement, it could supplement their daily feed intake as uneaten foods can be sifted out. Corn cob is simply longer lasting, more economical bedding if readily available in your area.
- Non-Toxic & Biodegradable
- Odourless & Dust-Free
- Highly Absorbent
- Free of Aromatic Oils
- Easy Clean-Up
How often should I change the animal bedding?
Generally speaking bedding should be changed whenever there is a stiff smell or you smell a build-up of bad odours or if there are any obvious signs of mess. This being said, changing your bedding regularly does not cause any harm to your chickens, but leaving your chickens in a messy coop often results in a number of possible problems. So, in short, make sure you clean your coop when there is cause to do so. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to disinfect your coop with a natural cleaner, such as apple cider vinegar.
The industry will continue looking for alternative litters, but cost and availability will be the ultimate deciding factors in whether they are adopted. Inevitably, some bedding materials should be developed local sourced, but what is important is that, once a material has been identified, user are made fully aware of just what exactly the local industry has and how it came be used without negative implications. As you can see, you get what you pay for with chicken bedding and all the options outlined in this section will suit your poultry penn in different ways.
We hope that your choice to find the best bedding for you has been made a little easier. Thank you for reading
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