How often should I change the litter in the pen, and what litter is best?

There are two historically available litter (bedding) products available in Barbados - shredded or diced newspaper and wood shavings. Diced paper is no longer commercially produced, but anyone can shred old newspapers in limited quantities. Wood shavings can be sourced from furniture manufacturers, or purchased from Gale’s Agro Products in commercial quantities. A third type, 'bagasse' is a by-product of sugar cane after the juice has been ground out of it. Each type has its advantages and drawbacks; shredded paper can be reliably sourced, but has poor absorption properties compared to the other two. Wood shavings are much better, but are more costly as a commercial product unless you can source them as a furniture by-product for free. Shavings made from treated wood are not to be used, as the additional chemicals may kill the baby chicks. Bagasse used to be readily available at sugar factories around the island, however the decline in the sugar industry has shrunk the supply and forced farmers to find alternative litter. It should never be used 'fresh', i.e straight out of the factory as the left over sugar promotes the growth of Aspergillosis fungi which will further infect chicks. Bagasse should be cured by leaving it exposed to rain and weather for a few monthsto ensure it is washed clean of any residual sugar.

In terms of changing the litter, frequency depends totally on its condition. If placed too thinly initially, then there will be little chance that much more droppings can be absorbed after one batch. If laid at 2 or more inches thick, the litter can last for several batches once it remains dry. When using the litter for multiple batches, it is good practise to turn it over and disinfect against residual bacteria before introducing a new batch of day old chicks. VIRUKIL™ or BLACK EXTREME™ are two excellent disinfectants for this purpose.