Choosing the right kind of bedding for my chickens is important to me, which is why I’ve tried several different types of bedding that ranges from hay to the deep litter method to sand.
The type of chicken bedding you choose will impact your hens’ health, cleanliness, and overall coop maintenance. It can save you time or cost you time cleaning it out, depending on the type of bedding you choose.
Should a Chicken Coop Have Bedding?
For chickens, bedding isn’t about a bed, rather, it’s a way to keep the coop clean and help manage waste.
Bedding is important for three main reasons. It absorbs urine and odors, reducing bacterial growth. It behaves like insulation creating a layer of warmth during the winter. It also helps the coop maintain cleaner.
Without bedding, the flock’s urine would saturate the floor of the coop, ammonia build-up, and chickens would be susceptible to respiratory problems and bumblefoot.
Bedding protects chickens from direct contact with a potentially cold or damp floor. This insulation can help regulate the temperature within the coop and keep hens comfortable.
It also collects droppings and reducing contact between chickens and their waste. This can minimize the spread of pathogens, maintain a healthier environment, and make cleaning the coop easier.
What is the Best Bedding For Chickens?
1. Straw As Coop Bedding
Straw is often used for bedding because it’s cheap and easy to get. Straw is left-over stalks of wheat or barley. Straw provides a comfortable, soft surface for chickens to rest on and offers moderate insulation. It is lightweight and easy to handle.
Pros: Straw is readily available, affordable, and biodegradable. It provides good drainage, which helps in controlling moisture. Chickens also enjoy scratching and foraging through straw.
Cons: Straw decomposes relatively quickly compared to other bedding options and may need frequent replacement. It can become compacted and clumped, reducing its effectiveness in absorbing moisture. Straw may attract pests like mites or rodents.
I like using straw for bedding in smaller coops and smaller areas. It’s easy to clean, but does need to be changed regularly.
2. Wood Shavings For Your Chicken Bedding
You can purchase wood shavings, but I usually get free wood shavings from one of three sources. My local dump shreds green waste and allows free pickup of wood shavings.
The utility companies have to trim trees to keep power wires free. The power company guys are usually happy to dump their wood chips in my yard instead of paying a dump fee. And, I have local sawmills that allow me to come and grab various sizes of shavings from their refuse wood piles.
Pros: Wood shavings are easy to find and cheap. Plus they absorb well, helping with oder control. They are easy to spread and comfortable for chickens. Pine shavings have natural antimicrobial properties.
Cons: If you use sawdust, it can cause respiratory problems with your hens because of how fine it is. Plus sawdust can really pack together with moisture, making it difficult to clean up.
I use wood chips and shavings in my larger coops as part of the deep litter method. It requires rotation only once a year and keeps the coop clean with healthy micorbes through the summer and winter.
3. Sand Flooring in Coops Makes Cleanup a Breeze
Sand is a great choice because it provides great drainage of moisture and gives hens a place to dust bathe.
Pros: Sand in the bottom of your coop makes it easy to use a manure shovel to clean the chicken poop out of your coop. The sand falls through, and doesn’t require replacement. Hens love it for dust baths.
Cons: You will need to regularly shovel out the droppings. It’s not as great for odor control.
I have also used sand and was happy with it except for the regular cleanings it required. It’s a great option to provide a cushioned floor, preventing bumblefoot.
4. Hemp Chicken Bedding
Hemp comes from the stalks of the cannabis plant. It’s organic and absorbent.
Pros: Hemp bedding absorbs well, reducing odors effectively. It’s lightweight and easy to handle. Hemp is a renewable resource and environmentally friendly.
Cons: Hemp bedding can be more expensive compared to other options. Availability may vary depending on the region.
I haven’t used hemp, but it might be a great option if you have access to hemp scraps in your area.
5. Pine Pellets For the Coop
Pine pellets are compressed wood pellets made from pine sawdust. When they come into contact with moisture, they break down and turn into absorbent bedding material.
Pros: Pine pellets are very absorbent and easy to handle when dry.
Cons: They expand when wet, falling apart. This produces more dust, which can impact your flock’s respiratory health. Pine pellets have to be replaced reguarly, and they are harder to replace after they have broken apart.
6. Shredded Paper for Chicken Bedding
Shredded paper is easy for most people to obtain, just due to the massive amount of junk mail that comes. I’ve used shredded paper as chick bedding because I need coverage for the smaller area.
Pros: Shredded paper is cheap and easy to find
Cons: It’s not very absorbant and needs to be changed daily or bi-daily.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Chicken Bedding
There are several important factors to consider when you choose what type of chicken bedding to use.
- How well it absorbs moisture and controls odors
- If it creates more dust that can harm your chickens’ respiratory health
- How much it costs and how easy/hard it is to purchase
- How much time it takes to maintain
- If it reduces mites
What Is The Best Chicken Bedding to Prevent Mites?
Sand is the best bedding to prevent chicken mites because it doesn’t provide many places for mites to live. Wood chips, straw, pine pellets, and hemp all provide organic places for mites to reside and live inside your coop.
But, sand is rough on mites. Additionally, adding Diacotamous Earth to your bedding can help to reduce the mite parasite load in your coop and keep your chickens healthier.
Tips for Using Chicken Bedding Effectively
When you put bedding down, make sure that you use enough bedding to have a deep level. A shallow layer of materials will make it less effective in absorbing moisture and odors. Make sure you regularly clean and replace it. Except for the deep litter method, which only needs about annual or semi-annual maintenance, most bedding should be checked or replaced at least monthly.
Except for sand, chicken bedding can be added to your compost pile and used in another year for your garden. Make sure to let your compost age because chicken droppings are hot and can harm your plants if they haven’t broken down enough.
Where Should Chicken Bedding Be Placed?
You should put chicken bedding in three main places: inside your coop, in the nesting boxes, and in the chicken run.
Inside your coop, bedding serves as a way to cushion the ground, insulate against the cold, absorb urine, and provide a comfortable experience for your flock.
Nesting boxes need bedding because otherwise hens’ eggs will crack more frequently. That can cause problems of wasted eggs and introduce egg-eating to your flock.
The outside parts of your chicken run don’t have to have bedding, but if you provide some bedding, it can help your flock to scratch and dig for bugs more. It can also provide areas for dust baths and places to rest in the summer.
- In the coop
- Nesting boxes
- In areas of the outside chicken run
Chicken Bedding FAQs
Is sand or mulch better for chicken run? Sand looks better than mulch, but mulch can provide a compost pile of sorts that encourages chickens to dig for bugs. Sand has been found to contain lower levels of ecoli than mulch.
Is hay or straw better for chickens? Straw is a much better choice for chicken bedding than hay. Hay molds quickly and breaks down fast, making it an unhealthy choice for bedding. Plus, hay is more expensive and difficult to clean up. Hay can cause respiratory issues in chickens when it molds.
Are grass clippings ok for chickens? Grass clippings can be a great choice of chicken bedding in the outside chicken run. Grass can provide fun for your flock and chickens will eat some of it. But, grass is wet and will mold quickly inside a coop so it’s not recommended as bedding inside.
How deep should chicken bedding be? Chicken bedding should be at least 3 inches deep so that bedding can absorb moisture effectively. Up to 12 inches is appropriate for bedding.
How often should you clean out chicken bedding? You should clean out chicken bedding weekly to monthly, depending on how deep it is. If your bedding is deeper, it won’t need to be cleaned out as often. You should clean out the entire bedding at least once to twice a year.
For an optimal living environment, selecting appropriate bedding plays a significant role in maintaining good health for your chickens. The various factors discussed in this article underscore how comfortability impacts overall wellness , cleanliness ,and happiness.
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