1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

Bedding Part 1: Comparing Materials

  1. mymilliefleur
    For some of us sand and concrete are just too expensive, stressful, and a big commitment, But there
    are other alternatives, some coming at no cost. This time of year especially, good clean bedding is a
    must. In this two part series I will be covering bedding, different types, maintaining it, and Keeping it
    dry and healthy and fresh. Here are the materials I have used.

    Bedding types:
    Straw


    1000.jpg

    Pros: Readily available, easy to fork up afterward, makes great compost later on.
    Cons: Can be hard to spread, course, dusty, can harbor pests.

    Because it is course and often dusty, it is not an ideal bedding to use inside your coop, especially
    if it is poorly ventilated. Since most straw still contains grain, chickens love to scratch in it. Putting a bale of
    straw in you coop or run is a good way to help with boredom. Because it is so course, straw can
    also be great for controlling mud in and around your run. Some people report having more lice and
    mite problems while using straw because of its tube like structure can be a prefect breeding ground
    for these and other pests. It is also much to course for comfortable nesting boxes.
    My rating
    For interior use:
    ✯✯
    Exterior use: ✯✯✯✯
    Nest boxes:

    LL.jpg
    Hay

    1000.jpg

    Pros: Readily available, soft, easy to fork and spread, mats together well.
    Cons: Can be dusty, moldy, and expensive.

    High quality hay can add an excellent fresh smell too your coop and run, but like straw, I would not recommend using
    it unless your coop is well ventilated as even the best hay can be very dusty. It can be excellent for open runs though,
    but is not as good for mud control as straw. It is great for nest boxes, especially if you
    have screened bottoms, where shavings are not an option. Also it mats together well, making cleaning a breeze.
    Chickens enjoy scratching in it, but be warned, hay contains lots of weed seeds so be careful if you plan to use
    it for compost later on.
    My rating
    Interior use:
    ✯✯✯
    Exterior use: ✯✯✯
    Nest boxes: ✯✯✯✯

    Pine straw

    1000.jpg

    Pros: No dust, smells wonderful, free, Pest resistant.
    Cons: Not available in some places.

    Pine straw are one of my personal favorite bedding materials. They smell wonderful, and are readily available
    in most places for no cost. It is great for inside your coop, especially if it is poorly ventilated as it is dust free.
    Pine straw is great for runs as well, in fact some of us have pine trees already growing in our runs, supplying
    then with fresh bedding with out any work on our part. If you do not have any pine trees on your property,
    don't despair. There are many people with pine trees in their yards who would be happy to have them raked
    up for free. Pine straw is ok for nest boxes, but not the most comfortable thing.
    My rating
    Interior:
    ✯✯✯✯✯
    Exterior: ✯✯✯✯
    Nest boxes: ✯✯✯

    1000.jpg
    Pine shavings

    LL.jpg

    Pros: Readily available, easy to spread, absorbent, great for brooders, pest resistant.
    Cons: Can be dusty, hard to clean up later.

    Pine shavings are easy to spread, and readily available, making them very stress free which is nice.
    They aren't so good for large runs though, especially as they readily sink in to the mud. They are
    good for nest boxes as long as you have a solid bottom. For brooders though, they are one of the
    best materials to use, since they are fine, and there is nothing for the chicks to get caught on
    (a problem with using hay are straw). Be careful not to use shavings that are too fine though, as the
    chicks may try to eat them. You can buy shavings at your local feed or hardware store,
    or possibly find free/cheap shavings at a near by saw mill.
    My rating
    Interior:
    ★★★★
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★★

    LL.jpg
    Leaves

    1000.jpg

    Pros: Free and readily available, No dust.
    Cons: blow around a lot, hard to clean up later.

    Because they are free and almost everyone has them in their yard, leaves are a pretty obvious thing to
    use for bedding. Problem is, they like to blow around. Put them on one end of your coop, and they will
    soon be scratched to the lowest end. For runs though, a load of leaves can be very beneficial, as
    the chickens love scratching in them, gobbling up the worms and slugs that inevitably will find.
    Throw a hand full of leaves in your brooder and you will have very happy chicks.
    Also, leaves are nice and comfy, great for nest boxes.
    My rating
    Interior:
    ★★
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★★★

    1000.jpg
    Wood chips

    1000.jpg

    Pros: Cheap or free, no dust, absorbent, pest resistant.
    Cons: Can be hard to find, hard to clean up later.

    Wood chips or shredded trees, can make great bedding. They are dust free, and the chickens cannot
    scratch them around like they can with other light materials like hay, leaves, or grass clippings.
    Wood chips contain the whole tree, leaves, twigs and all, and makes fantastic mulch if let rot down. It is also great
    for muddy pathways and runs. Finding wood chips can be hard. Your local electric company cuts and shreds
    loads of wood chips every day if you are interested in getting large quantity's of them. Since wood chips are often
    filled with large sticks and twigs, they are not good for nest boxes.
    My rating
    Interior:
    ★★★★★
    Exterior: ★★★★★
    Nest boxes:

    1000.jpg
    Grass clippings

    1000.jpg

    Pros: Free, smells good, chickens favorite.
    Cons: Tough grasses can get stuck in chickens throats.

    Grass clippings can be great bedding for your coop. Especially since chickens love to scratch and eat them
    too. And they are free. Do not use clippings from tough grasses such as broom sedge or Fesque though,
    as it can get stuck in your birds throats. Also, NEVER use clippings from grass that has been treated
    with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as it can be harmful or deadly to your birds.
    My rating
    Interior:
    ★★★
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★


    Special thanks to Mountain peeps for letting me use her pictures!

    Click here for part 2: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bedding-part-2-maintaining-your-bedding

    Thanks for reading!

    Share This Article

Comments

To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. SuziQ18
    I have read both Articles and found them absolutely informative for me! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
  2. SuziQ18
  3. chicken4prez
    Thanks for doing this! Helped a ton!!! :)
  4. chickenshiha
    thanks a lot im going to try the pine shaveings cause I have some in the garage I would like to use the leaves but I don't have any trees with that leaves but pine shaves are great to
  5. chickenshiha
    thanks a lot im going to try the pine shaveings cause I have some in the garage I would like to use the leaves but I don't have any trees with that leaves but pine shaves are great to
  6. Birdlover 13
    This is great!!!! Wonderful info!!! Thanks!!!!
  7. rubbleanddebris
    I use sand in the coop and pine shavings in the nest boxes. Makes a quick clean up with the kitty litter scoop.
  8. wenzel759
    What do you think about sand in the winter?
  9. Ur-ur-ur-urrr
    I use a combination of coarse and fine pine shavings from TSC. There's very little dust, it's highly absorbent, smells good, and it's fairly inexpensive. I buy the 5.5 cu. ft. bags when they're 2 for $10, and they last at least a couple of months in my 5'x8' coop. I do have pines in my yard, and may be adding that to my mix to stretch it even farther. Thanks for the tip(s)!
  10. Chick-e-poo
    Thanks for this article! I had no idea there were so many different options! We have lots of pine trees in our yard:)

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by