Are Cedar Shavings Safe For Chicken? What’s The Best Bedding?

You just got your backyard chickens are trying to put together the bedding for the coop. If you’re searching for a new type of bedding to use, you might have heard or seen some rumors that cedar shavings are bad for chickens. Are those rumors true? If you can’t use cedar shavings, what are the other options?

Are Cedar Shavings Safe For Chickens

Cedar shaving is not safe for chickens and can cause respiratory distress. Cedar shavings contain plicatic acid, which is proven to break down cells in the lungs and airways when inhaled, which can cause unpleasant symptoms and even long term asthm. Instead, wood shavings, which are the most common, for chicken coops.

Finding the right bedding can be challenging, especially, if you’ve never had backyard chicken coops. You want something that will keep them stay dry, and can help keep the odor down.

After reading this article, you’ll better understand which type of bedding to use for your coop.  

What Makes Pine Toxic to Chickens?

Cedar shavings are not safe for chickens due to their damaging effects on a chicken’s lungs and liver. (source) Cedar wood is also classified as carcinogenic in humans.

Cedarwood contains plicatic acid that can be harmful when inhaled. Plicatic acid can break down cells in your chickens’ lungs and airway systems, causing several respiratory symptoms and even long-term asthma. 

What Is Plicatic Acid?

Both pine and cedar shavings give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and toxic acids. The phenols are responsible for giving the softwood shavings the scent that repels moths, fleas, and other rodents. 

This pine oil is the most widely used pine oil cleaners found in the popular household cleaner Pine-Sol. When animals are exposed to softwood shavings, they absorb the hydrocarbons through the respiratory tract.  

Why Can Cedar Shavings Be Dangerous For Chickens

Chickens already have very sensitive respiratory systems, and cedar shavings can be harmful to humans if it’s inhaled, so think of the damage it can do to your chickens’ tiny lungs. No matter how ventilated your coop is, cedar shavings are filled with dust particles that will be inhaled no matter what.

Cedar has also been known to cause liver damage. Livers, when exposed to plicatic acid, begin to struggle with processing toxins. It is because cedar can cause cell death inside the liver. When the liver loses cells, it becomes damaged, which will lead to a very unhealthy chicken. 

Cedarwood has also been classified as carcinogenic for humans, which means anyone exposed to its dust has a higher risk for cancer.

Chicks raised on cedar bedding sometimes die early or have severely stunted growth. This being said, some chickens can go their whole lives on cedar bedding and not have a problem. 

Why this happens is unknown, but in the big picture, cedar shavings should simply not be used as bedding. The risks of using cedar shavings in your coop are too high, and there are safer options that won’t have any effect on your chickens’ respiratory systems.

Symptoms of Illness In Chickens Caused By Cedar

If you use cedar shavings as bedding in your chicken coop, it’s important to watch out for respiratory or liver illness signs.

Signs that your chicken is in respiratory distress include coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. These are all signs of symptoms you cannot see, such as asthma, chest tightness, rhinitis, bronchial hyperactivity, and decreased lung function.

Cedar shavings can also cause liver damage, which can be very serious. Symptoms of liver damage in your chickens include paleness of their combs and/or wattles, emaciation, weakness, and loss of appetite.

If your chickens are experiencing any of these symptoms, remove the cedar bedding and find a safer option. If they have liver damage, you should take them to their veterinarian as soon as possible to see if the damage is reversible.

What Bedding Is Best for Chickens?

Cedar shavings should never be used in the coop. Even if you’ve used it in the past with no problems, the risks associated with cedar are too great and could harm your chickens. 

There are few safer options to choose from that will keep your chickens safe and comfortable in the chicken coop. 


Straw and hay have been used for as long as chickens have been kept. Straw is very warm and perfect for your chickens to huddle up in, especially in colder weather. 

Straw has very little dust and gives chickens something to scratch and peck through. 

It can be found at almost all pet and feed stores, local feed or farm supply stores, although it can be challenging to clean and is less absorbent than other options. 

This makes it a lot smellier, and needs will need to be replaced often.


Sand is another excellent option. Sand provides clumping litter for your chickens, which makes it easier for you to clean. The sand will cover droppings and bury any odors. The only setbacks are that sand doesn’t compost, and it’s not as comfortable for your chickens.

Wood Shavings

Wood shaving are possibly the best option, as long as the shaving is not cedar. The bigger the shavings, the less dust they have, which will be easier on your chickens’ respiratory systems. Wood shavings absorb a lot and are easy to clean. Because of their absorbency, they are very good at controlling odor inside the coop.

Wood shavings control the smells and reduce ammonia from the air from droppings that can cause respiratory damage and eye problems. Chicks love wood shavings and will peck through them in search of bugs and insects. 

That being said, if ducks live with chickens, it’s essential to know that it is fatal for ducklings if they eat the wood shavings. 

Recycled Paper

Paper makes great bedding for the brooder box. It would be impossible to cover an entire chicken coop with recycled paper. Young hatchlings will love it because of the soft material, making it easy to walk on it. 

The downside is that paper will absorb water quickly, which means it will need to be replaced more often than other bedding. 

Whatever option you choose, it’s essential to do research and make sure it’s the best option for you and your coop. Try out different bedding types to see what your chickens like and what’s easier for you to clean up and remove. 


Cedar shavings are not safe to use around chickens and can have some pretty harmful effects on your flock when used long term. Cedar contains plicatic acid, which is very toxic when inhaled. 

It can break down cells in your chickens’ lungs and airways and can cause extreme respiratory distress. Cedar has also been shown to kill liver cells. This can eventually cause liver damage and lead to your chickens becoming very unhealthy and sickly.

If you use or have used cedar shavings, look out for signs such as trouble breathing, weakness, pale comb/wattles, coughing, or wheezing, as these could be signs of respiratory illness or liver damage. If you’re ever unsure of how your chicken is doing, you should take them to your veterinarian for a checkup.

There are so many risks associated with using cedar bedding that it’s simply not worth using. Chickens already have very sensitive respiratory systems, so it’s important to choose a bedding that won’t irritate their lungs. There are many safer options, such as other wood shavings, sand, and straw. Do some research and decide 

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