Renewable alternative bedding for commercial broiler chicken production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,258.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Penn State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Paul Patterson
Penn State University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Michael Hulet
Penn State University
Dr. Jude Liu
Penn State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: housing, manure management
  • Education and Training: display, extension, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Broiler-type chickens provide the number one source of meat consumed in the United States. To meet this demand, the industry rears over 8.5 million broiler-type chickens annually. In the Northeastern Region of the United States, wood shavings are the predominant bedding material on which these birds are raised. This material can be trucked in from as close as a local saw mill or furniture manufacturer, or from as far away as North Carolina. Imported shavings are more common today because local wood products are being used in applications such as particle board and pellets for pellet stoves. There are, however, other renewable options for broiler bedding, including biomass that can be grown on the farm. This innovative method of growing the bedding material on the farm allows the farmer to know where his bedding comes from and can be a more reliable and cost-effective way to bed birds than traditional wood shavings. To be successful, however, bedding materials must have the capacity to keep the birds clean and dry, while protecting them from injury. This study will evaluate two methods of processing switchgrass and willow over the course of two whole-house production studies with a local cooperator to determine which processing method results in the best bedding for broiler-type chickens.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Two trials will be conducted at a commercial broiler production facility to determine the effects of 2 different processing methods on two different, common biomass bedding materials on welfare and performance parameters of broiler chickens reared to 5 weeks of age.
    • Classify the bedding materials used for each trial (chopped biomass willow, and chopped switchgrass) based on particle size, pH, percent moisture, moisture holding/releasing capacity, density (wt/unit area), nutrient composition, and BTU content.
    • Over the course of two separate grow-out periods, assign litter scores and evaluate litter temperature, moisture, pH, nutrient content, BTU content, and ammonia measurements.
    • Evaluate bird performance both between the two treatments of each bedding type in terms of body weight gain.
    • Determine if there are differences¬†in welfare scores (breast cleanliness and foot pad scores) of birds raised on each of the differently processed alternative beddings.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.