What's the Best Bedding for Chickens?

The best bedding for chickens keeps them comfortable, helps you keep your chicken coop clean and contributes to a flock's overall health. Find out how to choose the best bedding to make your chicken-keeping life easier.

What’s the Best Bedding for Chickens - Pine Shavings

Topping the chicken bedding popularity chart is pine shavings. This is what I use in my chicken coop and recommend. Why?

1. Pine shavings are inexpensive.
2. Pine shavings are easily found at farm supply stores and even in a pinch at a pet supply store.
3. Pine shavings come in lightweight bags.
4. Pine shavings are absorbent and cushioning.
5. Pin shavings spread generously on the floor of a chicken coop last around a month or more depending on how much time your chickens spend in their coop.

A word of caution. Do not use cedar shavings, they are bad for a chicken’s respiratory system.

Pine shavings can be used everywhere in the coop including the floor, nest boxes and in the run. They should be laid about two to four inches thick on the floor so your chickens are cushioned as they're jumping from the floor to the nest box or from the floor to the roost bar and back down.

Soiled pine shavings can be removed on a regular basis to keep large overall cleanings to a minimum. If your shavings get wet from a spill, but not dirty, you can remove those shavings from the cop to dry in the sun and then put them back in the coop.

Shavings should be replaced regularly in the nest boxes to ensure clean eggs, especially if you're collecting eggs to sell.

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What’s the Best Bedding for Chickens - Straw

Also high on the list is straw bedding. Here's why it is favored by some.

1. Straw is inexpensive.
2. Straw is readily available; especially if you have a proper farm and are caring for other livestock.
3. Straw is cushioning.
4. Some say the hollow stems and stalks trap warm air and keep a keep warmer in winter.
5. Those same hollow stems and stalks sometimes come with bonus kernels left at the tips. A lucky find for your flock!

I have used straw in my coop and don't recommend it. Here's why.

1. Straw can be difficult to find in my area.
2. Straw is harder and messier to transport than bagged pine shavings.
3. Straw is harder and messier to store.
4. Straw can harbor mites. (This happened in our coop!)
5. Straw does not absorb water and droppings so it becomes matted and has to be cleaned more often.

Quick Tip: Straw and hay are two different products. Hay is a combination of plants grown to feed livestock like horses and cattle. Straw is the by-product of a grain crop, usually wheat. Straw is made of all the leftovers of that crop. It is not meant for everyday feed consumption.

What’s the Best Bedding for Chickens - Other Options

Other chicken coop choices are sand, which has pros and cons as well as shredded newspaper, which is inexpensive but can become slippery. Grass clippings and hay are sometimes used, but more as treats than actual bedding. Both grass clippings and hay can harbor mold. Fall leaves can also be added to a coop for the chickens to search through and find some goodies, but don't allow the leaves to sit in the coop long because they can harbor damp and mold.

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