Pine Shavings for Chickens, a Good Option?

Imagine being a chicken owner and standing before an aisle full of bedding options. So many choices, right? Pine shavings, straw, sand, hemp, the list goes on. This brings us to our topic today, a closer look at pine shavings. We’ll talk about their benefits, potential issues, and how they affect our chickens.

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What are Pine Shavings?

Pine shavings are a common by-product in the lumber industry and have found widespread use in various applications, one of them being as a bedding material for chickens. At its core, pine shavings are small, fragmented pieces of pine wood. They range in size, from tiny, almost dust-like particles, to larger chips approximately a few inches long.

If you have ever seen woodworkers in action, then you might have noticed how they handle and shape the wood. During this process, fragments of wood – the pine shavings – fall off. Imagine the process like a giant pencil being sharpened, with the pencil shavings being similar to what pine shavings are in this context. Quite interesting, isn’t it?

pine shavings for chickens

How are Pine Shavings Produced?

The production process for pine shavings is quite fascinating. It all begins with a pine log. This log is sent through a machine known as a planer, which is designed to smooth the surface of the log and bring it to a desired thickness. As the planer slices off layers of wood, shavings are produced.

These shavings then undergo a drying process to reduce their moisture content. They are then screened to remove any unwanted particles or excessively large pieces, ensuring the final product is of a uniform size. Once screened, these pine shavings are then bagged and sold. So, not only are they a practical use of what would otherwise be waste, but they’re also environmentally friendly!

Pine Shavings and Chickens

Now, let’s turn to how these humble wood fragments intertwine with the lives of our feathered friends, the chickens.

In poultry farming, maintaining the comfort and health of the flock is paramount, and bedding plays a significant role in this. Chickens spend a considerable amount of their time pecking around their bedding, and this is where pine shavings come in.

Pine shavings are favored by many poultry farmers because of their high absorbency, which helps keep the chicken coop dry. The dry environment is crucial as it aids in disease control within the flock by inhibiting the growth of pathogens that thrive in wet conditions.

Another advantage of pine shavings is their natural scent, which aids in odor control, thus keeping the chicken coop smelling fresh. On top of that, chickens seem to love the texture and comfort of pine shavings, often seen burrowing and scratching around happily in their bedding.

However, it’s not all plain sailing with pine shavings. They come with their set of challenges, including dust issues, potential for mold growth, and some concerns over their aromatic compounds potentially affecting the respiratory system of the birds.

That being said, the advantages often outweigh the disadvantages, making pine shavings a common choice for chicken bedding. But as always, it’s essential to be aware and handle any issues that might arise to ensure the health and happiness of the flock.

Benefits of Using Pine Shavings


When it comes to keeping chicken coops clean, absorbency is a key factor to consider. You see, chickens are quite messy creatures. They spill water, defecate anywhere they please, and engage in dirt baths – all activities that contribute to the wetness of their environment.

This is where the absorbency of pine shavings shines. Pine shavings are excellent at soaking up moisture, thanks to the cellular structure of wood which is naturally designed to transport and hold water. This high absorption capacity enables the shavings to keep the chicken coop dry, which is very important for maintaining a healthy environment for your chickens.

A consistently dry coop floor prevents the growth and spread of pathogens that thrive in damp conditions, reducing the risk of your flock contracting diseases. It also means the chickens’ feet stay dry, which they particularly love as wet feet can lead to a condition known as bumblefoot.

Odor Control

In addition to being super absorbent, pine shavings have another superpower – they are great at controlling odors. This is partially due to their absorbency, as they can soak up not only water but also other substances that might cause unpleasant smells.

But the magic of pine shavings goes beyond that. Pine wood contains natural oils that give it a fresh, earthy scent. This scent helps to mask the less pleasant odors typically associated with chicken coops, like the smell of chicken droppings, creating a more enjoyable environment for both you and your flock.


Pine shavings provide a soft, cushiony surface for your chickens to walk on, much more pleasant than a hard dirt floor. They’re also excellent insulators, helping to keep the coop warm during colder months.

But perhaps the most enjoyable aspect for the chickens is their ability to scratch and burrow in the shavings. Chickens naturally love to scratch the ground looking for food and pine shavings provide a perfect medium for them to express this instinctive behavior.

Moreover, the shavings make an ideal nesting material. Chickens like to snuggle down into a soft, comfortable space when they’re laying eggs, and the fluffy texture of pine shavings provides just that.

So, with their combination of absorbency, odor control, and comfort, it’s clear to see why pine shavings are a popular bedding choice for chicken keepers.

Drawbacks of Using Pine Shavings

Dust Issues

While pine shavings come with several advantages, they are not without their drawbacks, one of them being dust. As you may know, pine shavings are a by-product of the woodworking process, and in this process, fine particles or dust can be produced.

This dust can become airborne when disturbed, for instance, when your chickens are scratching and pecking at the bedding. This could potentially lead to a dusty environment in your chicken coop, which might not be ideal for you or your chickens, especially if anyone has respiratory problems.

It’s also worth noting that dust can also make your coop a bit harder to clean. It tends to settle on surfaces and might require extra effort to remove.

Potential for Mold

Another potential issue is the risk of mold growth. This typically happens if the pine shavings become excessively wet and aren’t replaced promptly. Mold thrives in damp, warm conditions, which can occur if the shavings are not managed well.

Mold exposure can be harmful to chickens, leading to respiratory problems and other health issues. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that the coop is well ventilated and the bedding is regularly checked and replaced to avoid such problems.

Respiratory Concerns

Lastly, there are some concerns about the natural aromatic oils found in pine. These oils give pine its distinctive scent, which many find pleasant. However, there are worries that these oils could potentially affect the respiratory system of the chickens.

Although studies on the topic have yielded inconclusive results, it’s still a point worth considering. If you notice your chickens showing signs of discomfort, like sneezing or wheezing, it might be a good idea to try a different type of bedding and see if the situation improves.

So while pine shavings do offer a plethora of benefits, it’s important to be aware of these potential issues. By being attentive to the needs of your flock and ensuring proper coop maintenance, you can provide a comfortable and safe environment for your chickens.

Alternatives to Pine Shavings

1. Straw Bedding

Straw bedding is another commonly used option for chicken coops. One of its main advantages is that it’s readily available and quite affordable. Moreover, its thick, hollow stalks provide a cozy and comfortable nesting place for chickens.

However, straw is less absorbent compared to pine shavings, so it may not control moisture as effectively. Additionally, straw can sometimes harbor mites, which can be detrimental to your flock’s health. Therefore, while straw can be a good bedding option, it requires regular replacement and vigilant monitoring for pests.

2. Sand Bedding

Sand bedding is another alternative you might consider. It excels in odor and moisture control, thanks to its small particles that can trap droppings and absorb moisture quickly.

Sand also has the added advantage of being easy to clean. Chickens’ droppings are easily visible on sand, and you can scoop them out daily, much like cleaning a cat’s litter box.

However, sand can get quite heavy when wet, making it less practical to replace. Additionally, sand doesn’t provide the warmth and coziness that other beddings like pine shavings or straw offer. This could be a factor to consider, especially during colder months.

3. Hemp Bedding

If you’re looking for a dust-free and highly absorbent option, hemp bedding could be the answer. It’s made from the core of hemp plants, which is incredibly absorbent and virtually dust-free, making it a great option for those concerned about respiratory issues.

Hemp bedding also decomposes faster than pine or straw, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Moreover, it’s naturally resistant to mold and pests, providing additional benefits.

However, the major downside of hemp bedding is its cost. It’s significantly more expensive than most other bedding options. But if you’re willing to invest a bit more for its benefits, hemp bedding can be a superb choice.

Final Thoughts

So, after weighing the pros and cons, are pine shavings a yay or a nay? I’d say a conditional yay! If you can manage the dust, change it regularly to prevent mold, and aren’t bothered by potential respiratory concerns, pine shavings can be a great choice. However, every flock is different and it’s essential to choose the right bedding that suits both you and your chickens.


Can pine shavings hurt my chickens? No, under regular conditions, pine shavings are safe for chickens. However, if they get too wet and develop mold, they can cause harm.

How often should I change pine shavings? Depending on the size of your flock and the moisture level, you should change them every 1-2 weeks.

Are there any other alternatives to pine shavings? Yes, you can consider straw, sand, or hemp as alternatives.

Is it okay to use scented pine shavings? It’s better to avoid scented pine shavings as the artificial scents could potentially harm your chickens’ respiratory system.

Are pine shavings expensive? Pine shavings are quite affordable, making them a cost-effective option for many chicken owners.

Kate King

Kate King

My experiences in sustainable living aim to contribute positively to our environment and community. This shared wisdom fosters respect and love for nature, emphasizing our place in the broader ecological framework.

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