Hi! Our family is keeps seven chickens in there coop almost full time. Because of this, all the grass is scratched up and the ground is really gross right now. We are considering laying down hay or some other type of bedding and wanted to know the best material for this purpose. Do you have any advice on which bedding to buy? Thank you!
Chicken Run Bedding
Is the area you want to cover outside and exposed to the elements (weather)? You don't want to use hay, use straw and only if it can be kept dry. If it's going to get wet you may have to be cleaning it up and replacing it every time it gets wet so you don't have mold growth. Construction sand would be better for outdoor application.
If it's for the inside of a coop: then Straw (not hay) will be just fine. Other options for bedding and nesting are also wood shavings, deep litter, and more and more flock owners are really liking construction sand.
Here is a thread for deep litter
Here is a thread for sand
You can read through these and come to your own preferences depending on your situation.
I live in SW Ohio, our winters are cold and wet, spring is wet as well. Our run is covered. We use deep litter; straw, grass clippings, pine needles and leaves. No mud, no odor, no visible poop and no flies.
Deep litter is wonderful stuff. It naturally creates healthy bacterial growth to counter the bad stuff. Deep litter is more akin to dry composting where new materials are added on top of old as the old gets soiled. Bugs and worms will move in and give the girls a natural treat to scratch up. A very healthy system.
But... if it gets really wet and it has lots of "green" material (such as fresh grass clippings, food scraps, etc.) mixed with a good amount of brown (dried organic material) then it can heat up and begin a hot composting process that just might be to hot for the girls to walk through. If the green/brown ratio is off and has too much green it can really smell (bad bacterial growth starting).
If you want to use deep litter then you'll have to figure out a way to cover the top of the run to avoid negative issues. The other alternatives would be coarse sand or pebbles. Another member may have other great ideas.