Bedding Part 1: Comparing Materials

By mymilliefleur · Dec 31, 2014 · Updated Feb 26, 2015 · ·
  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:


    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:



    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


    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
    Exterior: ✯✯✯✯
    Nest boxes: ✯✯✯

    Pine shavings


    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
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★★



    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
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★★★

    Wood chips


    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
    Exterior: ★★★★★
    Nest boxes:

    Grass clippings


    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
    Exterior: ★★★
    Nest boxes: ★★

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

    Click here for part 2:

    Thanks for reading!

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Recent User Reviews

  1. newshound
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jun 3, 2019
  2. fldiver97
    "Nice review, good pros and cons"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Mar 7, 2019
    Nice review for common bedding pros and cons!
  3. sfulbrig
    "Very good article on bedding"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 14, 2018
    Thanks! I needed to learn all options. Love the pros and cons.


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  1. rdadams88
    So I am interested in finding out more information about using pine straw for my chickens nesting boxes! I have a ton of it at my home. Living in North Carolina it has been my experience that red bugs/chiggers love to hang out in the stuff. It seems that this article recommends using pine straw for chicken bedding but I’m concerned that it might create some problems with my hens getting affected by them? Please give me your thoughts??
  2. SuziQ18
    I have read both Articles and found them absolutely informative for me! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
  3. SuziQ18
  4. chicken4prez
    Thanks for doing this! Helped a ton!!! :)
  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. 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
  7. Birdlover 13
    This is great!!!! Wonderful info!!! Thanks!!!!
  8. rubbleanddebris
    I use sand in the coop and pine shavings in the nest boxes. Makes a quick clean up with the kitty litter scoop.
      nancylee679 likes this.
  9. wenzel759
    What do you think about sand in the winter?
  10. 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)!
  11. 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:)
  12. RezChamp
    The "away from here" people come here, sneak around around behind our backs stabbing us there and giving incentives to the right people to obtain licences to ?harvest? peatmoss and leave behind an ugly, devoid of life hole in the ground that may heal in 10,000 to 25,000 years.
    I hate using petmoss for anything. It is a total resource rape and it is the kidneys or the water ways.
    In my area, there is a marked differance in water quality because of this resource rape. It also destroys very delicate ecosystems that took 10's of 1000's of years to get "just right".
    OldManBeard, mooswaoomiy, maskeknipisa, wisakiminak as well as hundreds and hundreds of other food plants and medicinal plants.
    I prefer to use something that is much easier on the environment because I know this the only thing worthwhile that I can leave for my chldren and grandchildren and so on and so on.
    I refuse to use peatmoss for anything other than maybe a bit to stuff into a gaping wound that may be inflicted somehow when I am miles and miles into the bog away from a hospital and"sterile bandages".
  13. RezChamp
    Well done article.
    The straw I get is nice and clean, dry and fragrant. I get it from people who have a mixed farm. They also have a turkey raising operation that utilizes the straw harvested on the farm. So I know I'm getting a very good quality product for very few $$.
    But, I like using Pine and/or spruce Shavings because they smell "way nice" and are cheap and accessable.
    I really, really like them pellets that are ade for pellet stoves. Very clean. Almost totally dust free. They are small enough for the adults to scratch around and big enough the(chkns) and/or the chicks don't eat them. Well mine don't anyway. They (pellets)are also very easy to work with and !!BONUS!! biodegradeable.
    Oh yeah, diatomaceous earth is really good to mix in with any bedding or even in a dustbath with ashes and sand...or dust the entire coop...or...
  14. mymilliefleur
    Personally, if I am doing deep litter, I like to put down a layer of wood chips, or shavings (which are absorbent) and than add pine straw (to help limit dust), over the top. I than throw some grain down, and let the chickens stir it up.
  15. Kris64
    If one is doing Deep Litter, is there a bedding that is preferred?
  16. mymilliefleur
    vet, Party Boy is a Easter Egger rooster. :)
  17. vet
    the pine shaving is the best that I have found for my young chicks. I use the straw for the older ones. Both are easy to keep clean.
  18. vet
    what kind of rooster is partyboy. He is a real pretty young man?
  19. Junibutt
    I have tried coffee chaffs, there are extremely soft and excellent for inside the coop with minimal air flow. They also smell great, however they blow around before settling down in a few days. Also if you use them in the nesting areas they can get stuck to the eggs and are hard to get off because of their size.
  20. mymilliefleur
    I'm glad you liked the article. I hope to get it updated soon!
  21. MacCana
    Great article!!! Up front and honest on both pros and cons. I have had the best and easiest time using the Deep Litter Method. Which, well, could be easily done with combinations on any of these on the list! You would just have to alter for what your environment is. Plus, a year later it makes excellent garden soil!!!! & hardly *ever* smells :) If it does just add more "brown" or "dry" matter, mix it (i use a rake) or let your ladies do the work over some scratch/treats.
  22. Vbrown71
    Thank you this is some awesome info
  23. gino100
    What kind of chickens are in the pine straw photo. Never seen them before!
  24. Acornewell
    I like wood chip
  25. Urban Flock
    I like the pine needle idea. We do have Sand in our run but would like a layer of needles on top for the wet season. Thanks for this great post.
  26. wildswanfarm
    We were taught a no brainer this Fall. Peat moss on the coop floor, and pellets of pine used by the horse owners locally. Fill a bucket 1/2 full of those pellet stove pellets, fill up the bucket with water. After the pellets soak up the water you dump out onto a dry surface and let it dry. It becomes sawdust and works beautifully as box bedding. Clean eggs, soaks up any urine in the nest with no problem.
    The peat moss on the coop flour is acidic so NO mites, lice, etc., and doesn't allow nasty buildup of chicken poo all winter. And, here on Vancouver Island, winter can be damp and chilly.
    Birds are happy and healthy. Coop floor looks dark due to the peat color, but chicken feet stay dry, and waste is taken care. Spring cleanout, with new peat moss spread, seems to be all that is needed.
  27. mymilliefleur
    Thanks everyone! I'm glad you liked it! No, I have not heard of Koop Clean, but would be willing to learn more about it!
    Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. I'll be happy to do a few more material reviews at some point!
  28. DMoody
    I tried Koop Clean and didn't care for it, I found it harder to keep clean and needed to clean more often. I love the pine and leaves idea. Will be gathering those this weekend.
  29. birdlover
    Hi! Great information! In another site I read that Koop Clean is excellent so I use that. It costs though...$17 a bale. It's made up of shredded straw, shredded hay and sweet PDZ. I've been very happy with it. Are you familiar with it? Does anyone else use it? The cost isn't prohibitive for me because I only have four chickens and a teeny weeny coop!
  30. Ila88
    Thank you for the article and excellent comments. I have been having a hard time finding hay and I now see I don't need it!
  31. DDRanch
    Thank you so much for this great information The article was well written and supported with good photos. Very useful. And a wonderful idea for leaves, didn't think of that but my hens will now have new adventures. Thank you.
  32. Bossom-hen
    I use finacard (shredded cardboard) in my hen house. It's warm, very absorbent and not as messy as straw. I also like it because I am allergic to hay and straw so it makes cleaning out more pleasant for me.
  33. Cuccismith
    I use shredded paper in nesting boxes! They love and it's warm!
  34. bear8357
    We shred up junk mail after we removed all plastic and any metal, also all news paper and penny savers. Shredded news paper give the softest and warmest bedding for free and some sweat equity. The inks they use now are soy based and non-toxic, I know it may very well be a GMO, but they don't eat any appreciable amount. All the girl's seem to love the nice soft warm nest boxes as they're not in any hurry to get off the nests and go out and forage in the cold mornings we've been having in the mountains. Also, my egg production is still pretty good for being winter. I also have 6 mallard ducks and they get dry pine shavings every night before bed time. Still getting great egg production from them too. They all have safe boxes for the night time because of all the predators we have here in the mountains. I also cover the boxes with several layers of cheap thin sheet plastic, $21.00 @ Lowes for 9x400 ft. It was $10 per roll last fall. What I do is create dead air space between the sheets, this give the maximum R value for pennies. All the girls stay toasty warm on any below zero nights we've had or that are coming.
  35. Minifarmtn
    I would guess that shredded rubber could be hazardous because if they can, chickens will eat anything. I wouldn't risk it. Also, it would be really hard to clean up.
  36. knjinnm
    Anyone tried shredded rubber? I have seen it used in covered horse arenas.
  37. pelicanchook
    Great info, I learned a lot. I'm very lucky that I live reasonably close to a wooden box making factory which allows me to scoop up all the pine shavings I could possibly want for free, so my girls have always roosted and laid on wood shavings, which after three months I change, and put the used ones out around the fruit trees. I live in the shadow of two huge pine trees, so I will add the pine straw (we call them pine needles in Australia) to the shavings in future, as well as chucking them into their day run for added pleasure. Thanks for your very handy hints
  38. HennyPennyCO
    In the fall I shred many bags of leaves, mostly gathered from the neighbors, and use them for mulching garden beds over the winter. They're also useful for adding to the compost heaps (browns/carbon) layered with the kitchen scraps/chicken poop (greens/nitrogen).
    Now that I have my little backyard flock, I have been also using the shredded leaves in the coop and the run. You are so right; the chickens love to scratch around in them!
    Now that I've read your suggestions, I'll definitely put the unshredded leaves in for chicken amusement too (I still have about 10 bags of unshredded leaves). Thanks for your article, mymilliefleur.
  39. jerrey
    really like everything you talk about it give me a lot to think about
  40. Free Feather
    I really like to use smaller plant material over tree parts because not only are they an unnatural bedding choice (shredded trees are not too common in the wild), buying shavings is paying logging and road side clearing companies. That is one of the last things I want to do.
  41. mymilliefleur
    Thanks everyone! Glad you liked it!
  42. crazyfeathers
    Thank you, learned a few things.
  43. MyPetNugget
    Good job!!! I would like to try a few of these!!
  44. familyfarm1
    Wonderful job mymilliefleur!
  45. Mountain Peeps
    What a wonderful article!! I learned a ton! Excellent job!

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