Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We will Chaff No More [Chicken related]

 So I hate to say it, but I think our run with the coffee chaff as bedding for the chickens is coming to a close.

I love the chaff: it's smells great, blocks odors, composts easily and best of all, it's free. The major downside is that it's so light and fluffy that it travels well. 
Too well. 

Winnie will give herself a shake and suddenly there is a cloud of chaff in the water bowl, the food dish, and in the nesting chamber. 

I would happily put up with all of that if the girls lived in an isolated coop. Instead, their interior area is part of our larger garden shed and is separated by 1/2 inch hardware cloth. So the chaff migrates out of the chicken coop and onto the various tools, machines, and potting paraphernalia that we have stored in the shed. It's making a mess. 

So I guess the big question now is, what are we going to replace it with? We could go back to the pine shavings, but they were expensive and molded easily. Maybe straw/hay? Not sure...


  1. I use coffee chaff, but there's not always enough of it at the place I go to. I've had great success also using straw. My girls like it because they can make actual little nests in their nesting boxes. Coffee chaff tends to float more.

    Straw does not smell bad either. But, then again, my girls' water and food are outside. If possible, I'd say try to separate the water from the straw. If there is a spill, clean up that straw. One thing i have learned is that if straw is wet, it WILL SMELL. Droppings are fine and will dry before the straw has a chance to rot.


    Good luck!

  2. Excellent, thank you Jessika. This is exactly the kind of advice I'm looking for. Do you typically buy a bale and then parcel it off into the coop on an as-needed basis?

  3. Exactly. I can get a very compressed bale for $7 at the farm store, and it lasts me quite a while. I feel a bit ridiculous that it's from IOWA, and but a mile away there is local straw, but I haven't found a local straw place. Plus, it's nice that the bale is compressed, thus taking up about 1/2 the space of a regular bale (and shedding less pieces). It makes it easier for transport in my non-truck vehicle.

    The only thing I recommend when you switch to straw is to do a weekly check on your birds for mites. Granted, they could get mites from just about anything, but being that it's straw, there's a greater chance of mites being in there than from the cast-off coffee chaff process. The odds are still low that they'll be in there (they are predatory little critters that need live things), but I do checks on my birds. It's an easy problem to fix (dietematious earth... though I know I spelled that wrong), so I wouldn't let it prevent you from switching. Anything you switch to is likely not heated (like coffee chaff), so it's a good routine to get into anyway. Especially since your birds are outside some.

    Oh, and mine like to twiddle the straw in their beaks. They look like men in the early 1900s with pipes and/or cigars. Nutbrain birdies.

  4. We're still so new to chickens, but we've had excellent luck with pine shavings. Have you tried food grade diatomaceous earth to keep the shavings dry? One difference is our chicks food & water is kept separate from their roost (food & water is placed in a dry area of their run), so no moisture makes it's way into the pine shavings. We use the deep litter method, so every few days I sprinkle DE over the pine shavings & add new shavings on top. No smell, no moisture, no bugs. It "compresses" & maybe 2-4 times a year, we'll completely clean out the shavings & start over.

    But, alas, if shavings don't work for you, they don't work. Same with coffee chaff. You gave it a try & now it's time to move the ladies on to different bedding. :)

    Btw...when did your ladies begin laying eggs? We're starting to get anxious - they've reached approximately 19-20 weeks & still nothing. I keep telling them they're going to become roast if they don't start earning their keep, but listening isn't their strong feature. Instead they squawk & run away...

  5. I read the chaff is getting into your ladies waterer. There is a product called a chicken nipple that is a God send! I can't recall the website I ordered mine from, but it's a little metal and plastic doo-hicky that I installed into an old soda liter bottle. It works so well and no more messy water! Good luck!

  6. Hey Christina, sorry it took me so long to get back to you, I must have missed your comment.

    We tried the deep pile method with the pine shavings but after a few months would get moldy. BUT, we didn't use the DE. I'm definitely going to try that if the straw is not effective.

    As for laying time, there was a huge gap between each of the girls. We got our chicks in early may but we didn't get our first egg until oct 12 from our barred rock. Our rhode island red was three weeks behind her and the buff was at least a month after that, maybe more.

    Thanks, Kate, for the comment. The chaff in the water is annoying but it's more of a problem with the chaff getting all over the nearby gardening equipment. So sadly, I think we are going to give it the ole heave ho.

  7. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Put up a shower curtain between the run and the equipment? I've also read that mixing the chaff half and half with chips/shavings/etc. cuts down on the flyaways.