The right bedding for a chicken coop makes a considerable difference when raising chickens. No one likes walking into a chicken coop and having poop stick to their shoes. Even worse, who wants to walk near a coop and smell something gross?
No one does!
The answer to stinky coops and messy poop is using the best bedding for a chicken coop. Chicken bedding won’t stop your coop from getting dirty, but it does keep the coop cleaner. Chicken owners have several options for beddings, so let’s take a look!
The Best Beddings for a Chicken Coop
1. Straw & Hay
Straw and hay add that sweet, earthy smell that many people associate with a barn. It has a springy texture, and it’s readily available in most areas. That’s why so many new chicken keepers reach for it to line their coops. It makes an excellent lining for nesting boxes.
2. Pine Needles
Many people never think about using pine needles for a chicken coop bedding, but you can find them abundantly if you have pine trees nearby.
Pine needles take a lot of time to break down, which means you won’t have to replace them too often. However, they aren’t great at absorbing any type of poop or scent. Chickens do enjoy making beds out of them, so consider pine needles for the front of your coop where the chickens don’t roost or in their nesting boxes.
3. Pine Shavings
You can find pine shavings at most farm and fleet stores as well as pet supply stores, making it one of the most popular picks for chicken coop bedding.
Pine shavings dry fast, are cheap and don’t break down too quickly. So, that creates an ideal bedding material. Plus, the mild scent is sweet at the start, but it fades over time.
4. Cedar Shavings
An alternative to pine shavings is cedar shavings, which has a stronger scent than pine shavings. Some believe that strong odors could affect the chickens’ respiratory system, but there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.
Despite any concerns, many chicken keepers use cedar shavings with their adult flock. They’re available at pet supply stores and farm and fleet stores, but it’s more expensive than pine shavings.
Sand is one of the cleanest choices for coop bedding if you have the time to dedicate to cleaning. It can be expensive to start with, compared to other picks, but sand only needs to be replaced once or twice a year if you clean and contain it correctly.
Chicken keepers like sand because it dries fast and can be turned with a rake or scooped with a cat litter scooper. Sand is often used as a flooring material for outdoor runs that are exposed to the elements. It doesn’t break down fast, and it works excellent for dust baths!
6. Shredded Leaves
In the fall, you’ll probably have plenty of leaves that you can shred up for a chicken coop bedding. Leaves shred finely and dry quickly, but whole leaves take a long time to break down and harbor moisture as they stick together. You want to make sure that you don’t use wet leaves because slippery surfaces cause bumblefoot and splayed legs.
7. Grass Clippings
If you have a large yard, then you might have enough grass clippings to use as a coop bedding option. They’re free, and everyone loves free, but they do have some disadvantages.
Grass clippings retain moisture and break down fast. That’s why gardeners love them as an organic mulch choice; they release nitrogen as they break down in the soil. However, in a chicken coop, grass clippings will dry, shrink, and start to smell.
If you want to use grass clippings in your coop, make sure you use ones that come from a yard that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or any other chemical that might hurt your chicken. Chickens pick at their bedding, so it needs to be safe and free of anything harmful.
8. Shredded Cardboard
Do you have access to a lot of cardboard? No one wants to see things go to waste, and you can shred up the cardboard to use as chicken coop bedding.
After you shred the boxes, toss the cardboard onto the coop floor and the nesting boxes until everything is covered. Then, the chickens will scratch it, and the cardboard will absorb the waste. You can even toss it in the garden or into your compost afterward because cardboard is compostable.
However, cardboard won’t do much to absorb smells. You’ll need to change it fairly often as well!
9. Recycled Paper
If you have access to a lot of newspaper, shredded newspaper or shredded office paper are great options. Since they’re free, you save money, but you do want to use them with caution. Ink can be toxic to chickens, and office paper is heavily processed.
What’s The Best Bedding for a Chicken Coop?
While there isn’t one bedding material that is better than the others, we do know that pine and cedar shavings are the most popular pick amongst chicken keepers. Shavings dry quickly, offer substantial padding for eggs, and smell fresh.
You can use the same or different materials in nesting boxes as you do for your coop. So, that means, pine or cedar shavings are the popularity winner. If you use the deep litter method, it ensures the bedding doesn’t go to waste, and it doesn’t require a considerable investment upfront.
If you’re looking for a material for your run, then sand is the best. We love sand in the run because it dries fast, doesn’t break down, and can be used for dust bathing. You don’t typically need to replace the sand in your run either unless your chickens toss too much out!
Sometimes, it takes trying several different bedding materials to find the right one. What works for you might not work for your neighbor or someone across the country. Take some time and give the options a try to find the best bedding for a chicken coop in your backyard!