Can You Use Cedar Shavings for Chickens?

Finding a good bedding option for your backyard chickens is essential for being a responsible chicken keeper. 

Poor bedding will hold too much moisture and become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, which may cause bacterial skin infections and other health issues. 

Some chicken owners use cedar shavings because of the pest-repelling and mold-resistant qualities of the oils present in the shavings. 

However, there are some qualities of cedar shavings with the potential to not be safe for your backyard flock.  

Cedar shavings contain oils toxic to chickens. The plicatic acid in cedar shavings causes respiratory issues and even death in chickens, especially young chicks. The oils do help repel insects and pests, but they also have the potential to cause significant health issues among your flock. 

Choosing a proper chicken bedding material will help to give your flock a long, happy, and healthy life. 

We’ll go over more information about cedar toxins and whether to use cedar shavings bedding for your chickens in this article. 

can you use cedar shavings for chickens

Are Cedar Shaving Safe To Use In Chicken Coops?

Cedar shavings as a type of bedding are generally not safe for your chickens. 

The aromatic hydrocarbons present in the cedar shaving give the wood its distinct scent. 

The smell of cedarwood dust will help repel pests and insects while providing a bit of a fragrance to cover up smells from the coop. 

Still, it also can negatively affect the respiratory systems of your chickens. 

The negative effects on the respiratory tract caused by cedar shavings are especially significant in young birds. 

Pullets, chicks, and younger chickens are more susceptible to damage to their respiratory systems from high levels of cedar dust. 

There are safer types of bedding to use in the coop. 

Cedar beddings tend to cause significant health issues, including chest tightness and trouble breathing. 

Cedar shavings-induced illness is common in chicks on cedar bedding. 

Keeping our chickens happy and healthy is an integral part of owning chickens. 

The effects of cedar bedding on the flock are not worth the risk. 

Cedar extracts are often incorporated in pest repellent sprays and products; however, they pose a serious risk of cedar toxicity. 

If you are looking for the pest and insect repellent benefits of cedar oil, there are safer alternatives to achieve the same effect without running the risk of cedar shavings toxicity. 

What Are The Dangers Of Cedar Shavings For Chickens?

Cedarwood contains oils and other components capable of causing respiratory illness in chickens. 

It is better to keep cedar chips out of the chicken coop bedding to keep your chickens healthy. 

Numerous studies have shown the dangers of cedar to chickens and their general well-being. 

One of the most prominent causes of cedar toxicity in chickens is the plicatic acid and terpene hydrocarbons found in cedar extracts. 

Cedarwood contains a mix of aromatic compounds. 

These will help protect the tree while it is alive but inhaling this wood dust causes many health issues like bronchial hyperreactivity, lung cancer, and other serious issues. 

Many of these are due to the immune response to inhaling both the dust and aromatic compounds present in the actual cedar wood shavings. 

The amounts of terpene hydrocarbons present in cedarwood cause liver dysfunction in chickens. 

When cedar is present on the coop floor or in the chicken coop bedding, there is a significant increase in liver damage in the flock. 

The liver is a vital organ responsible for filtering toxins. 

The liver toxicity caused by cedar shavings makes it very dangerous to use around chickens. 

What Is Plicatic Acid?

Plicatic acid is a compound found in cedarwood. 

The properties of this acid make it an excellent pest-repellent for cedar trees and help to prevent mold and fungus build-up. 

While the plicatic acid is great for the trees, it causes many respiratory issues for chickens. Inhalation of cedar dust particles increases the likelihood of respiratory distress in chickens. 

The respiratory tract of chickens is very sensitive, so the aromatic hydrocarbons, terpenes, and plicatic acid from cedar could trigger respiratory distress. 

The leading cause of cedar shavings toxicity in chickens is the inhalation of significant amounts of cedar dust. 

The toxic elements are present in most cedar wood but are especially high in Western Red Cedar and Eastern White Cedar. 

High levels of cedar dust or any dust will cause breathing issues and disease in birds. 

While the smell of cedar may be great, it is not worth exposing your flock to cedar toxicity. 

Symptoms Of Plicatic Acid Poisoning In Chickens

The symptoms of toxicity from plicatic acid from cedar wood in chickens are mostly related to the respiratory systems of chickens. 

The damage to the respiratory cells causes a few tell-tale symptoms of chickens being negatively affected by the plicatic acid from cedarwood. 

Here are some common symptoms to look out for caused by plicatic acid from cedar shavings exposure:

  • Cedar dust-induced asthma
  • Coughing
  • High levels of phlegm
  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Mucous membrane inflation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bronchial hyperreactivity 
  • Decreased lung functioning or lung cancer

Labored breathing is one of the leading reasons chickens may breathe with their mouth open.

There are some others, as our article at the link above discusses in detail.

Is There A Safe Way To Use Cedar In Chicken Coops?

The smell of cedar is alluring to many, and the potential for cedar shavings bedding to reduce pests, mold, and other common chicken coop issues makes it a tempting option. 

However, the high-risk levels of cedar dust beg for reconsideration. 

Some chicken keeps do succeed in using a small amount of cedar dust in the coop, but we don’t recommend it as the risk for cedar shavings-induced illness is very high. 

Some chicken keeps will mix cedar wood shavings into the bedding to help repel pests. 

This decreases the cedar toxins present but still poses some risk of harmful effects from the cedar wood dust. 

If you want to use cedarwood shavings, we recommend using only minimal amounts and keeping an eye on your flock for any signs of health issues. 

Keepers should never have chicks on cedar bedding as they are significantly more susceptible to issues caused by exposure to cedar particles. 

If you use cedar, we recommend avoiding high-toxin types of cedar, including Western Red Cedar and Eastern White Cedar. 

This will keep your backyard chicken coop safe from the damaging effects. 

Coop ventilation is also crucial as it reduces the devastating effects of inhalation in the backyard chicken coop. 

A well-ventilated coop will help reduce the harmful effects on chickens from cedar shavings by decreasing exposure to cedar particles. 

Safe Alternatives For Chicken Bedding

The adverse effects of the aromatic compounds found in cedarwood make it a risky choice. 

Luckily, there are plenty of other bedding types to choose from to reduce the health risks and damaging effects to the respiratory system and the increased risk for cancer associated with dust exposure from cedarwood. 

Finding other nesting materials will benefit your chickens in the long term. 

It is best to keep any harmful material away from your flock. 

Cedar shavings exposure causes a myriad of health issues. 

Many of the common types of bedding also pose health risks. 

Chickens need bedding, and subjecting them to copious amounts of cedar dust will lead to adverse health issues, including cedar dust-induced asthma. 

The most important thing to consider with chicken coop bedding is the frequent replacement and the potential for bacteria, pest, mold, and fungus growth. 

Each type has its benefits and risks, but finding one without the plicatic acid from cedar could make all the difference. 

Here are some excellent alternative types of bedding for chickens to keep them healthy, happy, and safe.


Straw is a great chicken coop bedding. 

It has excellent moisture retention and composts well. 

However, moisture retention tends to lead to an increased risk of mold development and overall cleanliness. 

It will require frequent cleaning and replacing, but it doesn’t have the same harmful link between cedar bedding and severe health issues. 


Sand is another great chicken coop bedding option. 

It poses significantly fewer health risks than those associated with cedar toxicity. 

Sand has poor moisture absorption, making it significantly less likely to attract mold, insects, and bacteria. 

It may not have the smell of cedar, but it keeps the coop clean and safe. 

Pine Shavings

Pine shavings are a good option for chickens. 

Some keepers find the pine dust to be problematic for the flock. 

The shavings are produced from pine wood and offer good moisture absorption. 

There is an irritant in pine capable of causing respiratory issues, liver damage, and even cancer. 

It is not the best option but carries far fewer dangers than cedar dust toxicity. 

The softwood shavings from pine trees also contain abietic acids. 

Scientific studies show that abietic acid’s health risks on chickens are similar to the effects on chickens from cedar shavings. 

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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