Litter in animal production is a term for bedding material. It is also a term for used bedding material. Wood shavings are important in the deep-litter system of poultry production. They are the commonly used litter material used to cover the floor of a deep-litter pen. Unlike in the battery cage system, the floors of the pens where chickens are kept need to be covered with good litter material.
Properties of a Good Litter
A good litter material should:
- be highly absorbent. i.e. ability to absorb water and other moistures
- have low thermal conductivity or poor heat conductor
- be free of toxins, mycotoxins or contaminants like metals and pesticides
- be non-toxic or non-poisonous to birds
- have a short drying time
- be able to decompose fast and reused as organic manure
- be relatively inexpensive and readily available.
Wood shavings have all the above properties and this is why they are the best litter or bedding material. The major challenge that most farmers using the deep-litter system faces is the scarcity or unavailability of wood shavings. 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, there are other alternatives to woods shavings that can be used as litter materials. These alternatives can be sourced locally and are very cheap to get. So your worry is over. Below are some of the alternative litter materials that can are locally available.
- Rice husks
- Rice hulls
- Chopped wheat straw
- Chopped maize straw
- Chopped millet straw
- Shredded paper or other paper by-products
- Peanut hulls
- Maize or corn cobs
Using sawdust as a litter material is not recommended because it could cause respiratory problems for the birds.