Part of keeping chickens will be providing bedding in their coop. The bedding’s purpose is threefold. It is used to:
- Provide a soft and secure surface for the chickens to walk on
- Control odor by absorbing the chicken waste as well as making the coop easier to clean out
- Cradle the eggs laid by the chickens
Options for Bedding
Pine or Aspen Shavings
- Can be bought at a pet, garden, or farm supply store
- Most often recommended bedding
- Some people believe oils in softwood cause problems, while others believe hardwood leads to molds and fungi
- Kicks up small particles and can cause respiratory issues
- Can be expensive
- Heavy to move around
- Lasts longer than shavings
- Droppings must be separated out before they can be put into the compost or you need to discard them with the sand
- Some people claim it has led to respiratory issues or frostbite with their chickens
- Droppings can be cleaned out of the sand with a rake – like cleaning kitty litter
- Use builder’s sand rather than sandbox sand
- This blog post enthusiastically recommends sand
Hay or Straw
- Chickens can get digestive problems from eating these
- Not very absorbent, it can lead to mold
- Good choice if you have a ready supply of it
- Some printing processes have chemicals that can cause problems for birds
- Not very absorbent
- Dangerous for chicks’ leg development – too slippery
- Not very absorbent
- Tends to retain moisture
- Breaks down quickly
- Chickens will likely eat some of it, so it should come from a lawn without pesticides
- Should be dried and shredded
- Can lead to a slippery surface and cause problems with chicks’ leg development
- Needs to be changed more often
- Soaks up bad smells
- Chickens may eat it all
- May lead to humidity issues
Diatomaceous earth can be added to any of the above bedding. It acts as a desiccant – drying out the bedding and coop. This has the welcome side benefit of cutting down on insects.
Bedding to Avoid!
Cedar shavings are known to cause a problem if used as bedding for chickens. Apparently, cedar is toxic to chickens if eaten and can cause respiratory problems even if it isn’t.
If your eyes water and you’re uncomfortable when you stick your head in the coop, the chickens are uncomfortable too and the bedding should be changed or at least cleaned.
The coop should be dry, if you ever get the feeling that it’s moist, that’s a problem.
What Do We Use
My wife and I settled on pine shavings for the bedding in our coop and we’ve been happy with it. Over half the respondents to a poll on Backyard Chickens also said they use pine shavings. They also have quite a nice infographic on their site about bedding.
What do you use for bedding? What has been your experience with it? Any problems? Any nice surprises?
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