Using Sand In Your Chicken Coop

Using Sand as a floor covering in my coops has been one of the BEST decisions I have made in terms of how to properly care for my chickens;...
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  1. DawnSuiter
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    Using Sand as a floor covering in my coops has been one of the BEST decisions I have made in terms of how to properly care for my chickens; open-air coops is the other. The idea was of course not mine, I picked it up from an ebook from the 1919 written by a California Egg Farmer named Charles Weeks, who spent a great deal of time testing the best conditions in which to raise chickens. Finding this information was timely, and I can thank BYC member Davaroo for pointing me in the correct direction when it comes to no nonesense-tride & true methods to refer to.
    Now, I'm not talking about your child's playground sand, or the stuff you find on the beach! I'm talking about course and sharp local river sand. Its rough, filled with differet size pebbles & stones and if your a tenderfoot, you do NOT want to walk barefoot on it. You can find this type of sand at your local Sand & Gravel yard or quarry, where they have it washed & piled up high. If you don't know right off the top of your head where that is, no worries, there always seems to be one not too far away and likely a little time with your phone book will get you started in the right direction.

    ********* Many BYC Members have tried & used with success Playground Sand products from their local Home Improvement store. I think that this seems like a fine alternative even though it does NOT provide ALL of the benefits that River Sand would. If this is all you have available VS. using wood chips or the Deep Litter Method... I would definitely give it a try first. Not every method is right for everyone, but I think sand should at least be investigated in EVERY coop to see if it can be the right match. The following reasons should illustrate why I feel so passionately about it's use *************
    Course Sand/River Sand is amazingly great for the following reasons:

    1. Cost effective floor covering! I can cover 100sf for a lot less than $20 for 6 months or more!
    2. Preening & exfoliating help. Yes, I said exfoliating! My chickens feet are smooth and the sharp sand helps them clean and keep their feathers nice & pretty.
    3. Natural Grit. No need to add additional grit. Construction sand has pebbles, sharp sand, small rocks of all variations all of which make digestion for the chickens easier
    4. Super fast clean up, and lots cleaner PERIOD. There are not layers and layers of poop, the poop stays ontop of the sand and in just 5 minutes a day we can scoop around 200sf of chicken coop floors with a small kitty litter scooper. The chickens do not have to live in or above composting wood chips & poop for months or weeks on end therefore providing them a healthier environment, or at least one I wouldn't mind living in.
    5. Sand is very dry and has no ability to retain moisture, the poops dry out very quickly and so smells disappear rather quickly and we are not harboring any moisture conducive to mold or bug growth.
    6. It's Cool! Yes, temperature wise, sand is a cool substance and makes for a great way to help beat the summer heatwaves.
    7. Conserves food! Who wants to waste food? Not me! Food and pellets can not hide in sand that is only a couple of inches deep! It's easy to dig through and they are able to eat every last pellet of food if I give them.
    8. Better compost. Why add tons of slow to breakdown woodchips to your compost pile? When you use a scooper in sand, you pretty much just get poop!
    9. Aesthetically pleasing. I like the look of sand, I like that I can see if there is poop or not, I like that it's a natural color and doesn't look dirty.
    10. Environmentally Friendly. River sand is likely to have come from your local river basin or quarry yard, and therefore is not commercially processed and bagged. It is not usually transported over any long distances and therefore uses less energy, fuel & waste to become a useful bedding for your chickens!
    What are the downsides to sand? Well.. it's more difficult to transport than feed store woodchips, as you'll need a pick up truck or to have it delivered to your home by the 1/2 ton. It can become dusty when you are replacing or shoveling the sand after several months of use and also during the really hot & dry times. We installed a water misting system around the perimeter of our coops along the roofline for those really hot days and it too helps with any sand dust. Prior to that.. a few quick sprays of a trigger water sprayer/misting bottle or even a quick douse with the hose worked wonders. When we are replacing sand in our coops, shoveling out the old to bring in the new, we try to wear some type of respiratory protection device; mask or wet cloth, to prevent it from getting in our lungs. We also prefer to have the chickens OUT of the coop while changing the bedding.
    In short, I can think of almost NO reasons to use anything else in your coops! (SEE PRECAUTIONS BELOW)
    In our main hen house, we have a pond liner over our plywood floors and we keep the sand on that. In dirt floor coops, we simply pile in the sand to a couple inches of depth, refreshing it monthly or every other month with a few more buckets worth. Additionally a substrate, gravel bed or concrete chip floor, can be put down first with sand over the top to assist with drainage & cleaning. On our back porch deck, we covered it with metal window screen and then piled the sand ontop of that, it drains fantastically through the screen! There are so many ways to make sand part of your regular routine.
    Use a kitty litter scooper, fine combed garden rake or even a shop vac for clean up! I use all 3 depending on the situation!
    Changing the sand need only be done once or twice per year at the most, although I DO change the sand out COMPLETELY if I move new or different chickens in.
    If the sand gets extremely wet or caked, I remove that entire area. If it's only a little damp or a small water spill, I simply redistribute the wet sand throughout the coop and mix it with the dry. It will dry up fairly quickly.
    Threads & Discussions on Sand in Your Coops to get you started:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=250190

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=100027
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=78543
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=99993
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=74198
    PRECAUTIONS & THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING IF SAND IS RIGHT FOR YOU
    Respiratory Concerns
    If you or your family have any respiratory concerns, sand may NOT be right for you. Sand is largely comprised of Silica, a substance that can be harmful to your lungs with repeated exposure to silica dust. While construction sand is mostly small to medium size pepples & particles, after time it will be ground down through normal chicken coop use into a fine powder. This fine powder, when inhaled, can collect in your lungs and cannot be expelled. Long term exposure and inhalation of silica dust causes a respiratory disease called Silicosis. A quick spray with the hose before working with old finely ground sand and/or face mask protection is advisable for everyone, regardless if you have a compromised respiratory system.

    Climate Concerns
    Several folks have expressed a concern regarding sand usage in extremely cold climates. It WILL BE COLD, unless you have a heated coop. While I haven't measured the difference myself, I do believe that it will maintain about the same temperature as the ground surface in your climate. Therefore it is just as cold as the ground is to walk on. So if you prefer for you chickens to have something warmer underfoot, you might consider a different bedding method during the winter months. I DO NOT recommend putting woodchips ONTOP of a sand base. The resulting mix will hold moisture thanks to the woodchips. If you would like to keep your sand but still have concerns, a sparse layer of straw on top of your sand base will be great. The straw will mat together with the poop and create a secondary surface which is easily raked out and replaced as often as you feel is necessary.



    PLEASE READ THIS WARNING!!!!
    DO NOT MIX wood chips and or straw with wet poopy sand! If you have a drainage issue, adding straw or wood chips on top of mucky sand is going to make the problem WORSE and seriously foul smelling!!!



    Coop & Run - Design, Construction & Maintenance Forum Section

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  1. Arnettalynn67
    thanks for all the wonderful ideas on what to put on the coop floor..
  2. LaVidaGallina
    I just read an article on how sand is a breeding ground for e-coli and coccidocis ( I know I spelled that wrong, sorry). I'm a new chicken mama, and have done lots of research and worked hard to give my 6 girls the best environment possible. We live in Oregon and haven't experienced a rainy season yet, but thought the sand would fair better than wet straw or hay getting all mucky. I realize everyone has an opinion, but I've heard more positives in regards to sand than negatives. I just had another yard delivered this morning to add more to the large run. I've left an area to put straw or hay along with grazing boxes I've built for their enjoyment. Now I wonder if I made a mistake! I don't want the girls getting sick because I wanted it more convenient for me. Has anyone had issues with sick birds because of using sand? I must also say, I give it a thorough cleaning daily in the coop and roost, and weekly in the run.
      Arnettalynn67 and TwoCrows like this.
  3. ChickenTater
    How often should one change the old sand to new sand?
      Arnettalynn67 likes this.
  4. Patti Hilton
    I added sand to my coop and just love it
      Arnettalynn67 likes this.
  5. SoCalClucker
    We have used a very coarse sand from day 1 and would never use anything else. We do have about a third of the run boxed in with 6" of alfalfa hay and that is where we throw kitchen scraps, etc. so they can have the best of both worlds, but the ability to take a lightweight rake and within minutes have all the dried out poop sifted out from the sand is absolutely amazing. I think the poop drying out so fast helps cut down on flies too. In heat, I wet a section of sand down and they love squishing it between their toes. I was watching our Mama Hen scratching furiously in a damp spot of sand the other day and was surprised to see that she was actually finding tiny sprouted grains from scattered feed for her babies! Yet another plus! They love scratching in the alfalfa too. Spoiled girls. :)

    If it helps, our local Home Depot wasn't too clear on which sand was the coarsest. Turns out it was the one called "All Purpose," in the builder/contractor section. It has grains from the size of chia seeds all the way up to the size of split peas. My husband took a huge snow shovel and drilled holes in it to use as a super size kitty litter scoop tool. Perfect. :)
      ShawnIGGYmama and Patti Hilton like this.
    1. LFord
      Play sand is actually sterilized to keep bacteria from growing and harming kids.
      Arnettalynn67 and ShawnIGGYmama like this.
  6. LFord
    We use sand and love it! The chickens have a blast when they are bathing in it. Easy to keep clean and smell is not an issue.
  7. GardenDmpls
    Just switched from deep litter to sand and what a difference. No ammonia smell, easy to clean (I keep a litter scoop and a tall bucket handy and dump in the compost once a week) and rake smooth. Had a drainage problem in the run after accidently using hay instead of straw over snow this past winter. Dug out the worst area and added sand. Worked so well, decided to try in the coop. Now am trying to figure out how to get a load of sand delivered and somehow moving it out of the driveway expeditiously. May have to hire some teenage shovelers.
  8. Stephine
    I don't see anyone talking about what to do with the sand that they clean out.
    It's not like you could compost it... What do you do with all the dirty sand?
    Also, people talk about cleaning the run. I have deep litter in the run and I never need to clean it. Ok, I shovel some out maybe three times a year, but no frequent cleanings. The poop just disappears and it never smells or attracts flies, ever... and when I "clean it out" I can compost it and use it in the garden and it feeds our plants and then disappears!
    1. Fallenone05
      Some people recycle sand in their coops. They wash it and dry it in the sun, then repeat when it needs it again.

      http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/09/chicken-coop-bedding-sand-litter.html?m=1
    2. LaVidaGallina
      I recently set up an area in run for mix of chop straw/hay w/ PDZ. The rest of the run is sand. In Oregon and get lots of rain. This is my first rainy season, so far I see this mix is going to be a soggy mess! I read that this is a breeding ground for coccidocis (spelling) and chances for bumblefoot. I'm planning on shoveling the mess out to the compost pile. Dirt will be exposed, so I thought about only using a small amount of the straw/hay mixture and changing it out more often.
  9. MossyOaks
    This is an awesome idea, although we live in Northeast Nebraska and we have very cold snowy winters. I got excited when I seen this thread, but the cold weather and sand just won't work for me..

    Great post and awesome idea!
      EclecticLadyy and ShawnIGGYmama like this.
  10. xcalibor67
    Just started using River sand in one of my covered runs. One of my friends owns acreage along a major river with 2 miles of my home, and is more than willing to give me ALL i want.. After reading some poss on the thread i think some people are confused or just dont know...but...sand will not retain water, and i dont see how it retains stink face smells. Sand consists mainly of quartz, and other harder minerals, which cannot retain odors. Now...If you have dirt, or extremely fine dusty sand, i could see where it would retain odors, as it turns into muk when wet.. Without having the sand on top of a concrete slab 1st, in time the ground under the sand will retain odors from where poo has leeched through the sand down into the soil...in this case you may have to dig out the sand and a few inches of soil and start over. I do like the natural river sand if for nothing else, the chickens like it, and it even has the lil clam/muscle shells along with colorful pebbles..
      abcn123s and TwoCrows like this.
  11. room onthebroom
    Thanks for this article. My chickens love hanging out in the kids sandbox & I've been wanting to switch over to sand in the coop for a while. I know the type of sand to use can be a controversial issue. I'm looking forward to checking out the hyperlinks & hopefully finding more info. PS. I love the disclaimers on dust & moldy wood chips.
    1. LFord
      My chickens really love the sand. My only complaint is that they can really fling the stuff when they are dusting, lol. We have a hen that is almost ready to lay eggs and she has to be the first in the run after I clean it out and put in new hay. I think we might have to wrestle her to the ground to get one of her eggs from her, lol. The sand has been awesome!
  12. Abriana
    I heard that in the wintertime, it cleans the mud off of their feet for cleaner eggs.
  13. Coturnix Quail
    I used sand in my coop, and after it rained, it got stuck to their feet and sticky-like. Although my birds did love it, I don't think its the best option.
  14. TwoCrows
    When I first started using sand on my coop and run floor, I loved it. And the chickens LOVED scratching around in it. I used it for years and swore by it! It seemed easy to maintain, you could hose it down in the summer heat and it kept their feet nice and cool. It did a WONDERFUL job of repeling flies. BUT....over time it does stink!!!! I mean nasty stink. And no matter how clean I kept, it still stank. I tried keeping the bare minimum depth on the floor, but still it was stinky. It was VERY heavy to strip the floors several times a year and the dust was beyond belief! When ever the wind blew, it was like a dust storm. And I was throwing towels down for them to stand on for warmth in the winter. Late last year I switched to mulch/wood chips and I am in LOVE with them! They are far less dusty, you can hose them down too, no flies and the birds stay warm in the winter! They are super light to deal with too. If you can replace your sand frequently, its a wonder floor litter, if not, you may run into health and other issues in your flock, at least this is my humble opinion. :)
  15. Lamaremybabies
    I love this! I use sand in my coop and it is by far the best choice in bedding I've made.
      13ChickenGirl likes this.
  16. LittleBird123
    I want to switch to sand but all I can find is play sand and leveling sand, would leveling sand work?
  17. DianaMallory
    I used sand one time and will never do it again! It stinks, it is to heavy, and I just don't like it as well as wood chips! Besides the wood chips serve a dual purpose. After they are soiled they can be used in your compost! Great in the garden and If you have a mucky run they work great to help dry it up! And then into the garden! Never again will I ever use sand! I recommend anyone that does, you better have a strong back! Shoveling wet sand is not fun! :( need a thumbs down button for this post! Sorry!
      TwoCrows likes this.
  18. Percysmom
    I use wood chips in the nesting box but have one whole area of their pen filled with sand. They do seem to like it and it is easy to scoop the poop with a kitty litter scoop.
  19. Chickenrunlady
    Hmmmmm I'm liking this idea for inside my coop, seems more cost effective and easier to clean and sift throught.
  20. newchick1358
    what do you do with the old sand when you replace it? is my big question. I have a small coop and run and it's always muddy. I know I have to do something and sand sounds nice. But what do you do with dirty sandy?
      Stephine likes this.
  21. 1muttsfan
    While the sand may be the same temperature as the ground, most chickens here are not kept on the ground in the winter, but on thick bedding in a protected coop with trips outside as they choose. Sand would be a rock-hard frozen cold sink inside coops in areas where the temperature sometimes does not get above zero.
  22. Chicken lady5
    I have tried sand this year but am having a lot of trouble with dust. One of my favorite hens is having breathing issues because of the sand I believe. I really like the ease in cleaning up every morning with the sand. We dug it out of a gravel bed on the neighbors farm. Isn't that the same as construction sand? I have mixed water and vegetable oil together and mixed it in with the sand to help with the dust. There must be a better way?
  23. Kristinanne80
    I used sand in the coop all this summer and absolutely loved it. Now that winter is approching I am changing to either straw or shavings. I just feel like sand will be to cold on my hens feet.
      Chickenrunlady likes this.
  24. Scrambles55
    Thank you!! I am going to try switching to sand in the Spring.
  25. Freerange Chick
    Thinking of switching. Thanks for such great information. Everyone's questions and suggestions have be so helpful! Thank you!
  26. dandar
    i am switching to sand this week the guy at the rock quarry told me that if i heat the coop that the sand should absorb some of the heat and there fore should work in colorado winters...I am excited to switch as i have been using wood chips and am not happy with it at all....also he encouraged me that it DEFINITELY WOULD BE LESS FIRE HAZARD when running my heat source..
  27. hannahsflock
    Defiantly going to try this!! :)
  28. Oldmomma
    Im in a country full of sand, what luck! That I can find all I want free. Many local woodworking shops here too I might get woodchips from later but for now sand glorious sand..thanks for your post. I found that the poop stays on top and a cat litter scoop works great for my babies. Will put some today for older chicks.
  29. mmmooretx
    The closest I can find is sharp/concrete sand, will this work?
  30. countrydream7
    riversand is it safe for chickens lungs and what do u do with the sand u clean out where do u dump it ...why not just replenish it when needed and not clean all out?
  31. jtbass2756
    I have sand in my coop and dearly love it....easy to clean...girls love it!
  32. countrydream7
    the sand sounds like a great idea will try in spring..the dust can effect humans though if so will mask face
  33. 6henslvr
    i have a question... where i live it gets extremely windy. will the sand blow away??? i would think so but surly it gets wind at other peoples houses with sand, does it affect it? (P.S, the coop its self is in a slight dip.)
  34. Twinklin
    I love sand. I read about it while researching to set up my coop for my first 4 chickens and went with it as my first option and love it. Not sure if I'd like anything else since I haven't tried anything else. We use a few inches in the coop and run. It stays very dry because we live in AZ so we never worry about smell. I rake it every week and scoop it like a litter box under the roost every other day. I add a sprinkle of DE to it once a month.
  35. Valk
    What a great article. I'm practicing the deep-litter method for winter warmth, but this spring I'd like to try sand.
  36. lauranickerson
    Also, when it rains, the water splashes in the coop and gets the sand went, and it just sticks together. It takes DAYYS to dry out.
  37. lauranickerson
    I seitched to sand inside the coop not too long ago and I'm having one major problem. Wood Shavings. That's what I've been using in the nesting boxes and they kick it out and it ends up just being a sandy shavings coop. By the time I strain all of the junk out, I've lost a bunch of sand that gets stuck in the shavings. Anyone have a better suggestion for what to use in nesting boxes?
  38. TwoCrows
    I recently switched to sand and I cannot say enough about it! Sand....the bedding from heaven! Cleanest, driest, softest, easiest flooring one can use. I use it in the nest boxes and runs as well! Chickens love it and so do I. :) Thanks for sharing!
  39. coophead
    I used sand in my brood pen when raising our girls. The floor of the pen was 1/2" hardware cloth with a layer of rosin paper laid over it and up the sides a couple inches to prevent the sand from falling through. This was easy to keep clean and worked quite well. I made a poop scoop from a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth to sift out waste. Two bags of play sand worked on a 3' by 5' pen. I'm using sawdust on the coop floor now only because I cleaned out my table saw and had about a wheel borrow load of it to get rid of and figured it would compost better with some manure mixed in. I'll replace it with river sand when the time comes.
  40. lungewhipqueen
    So when you replace the sand... what do you do with the used stuff? I imagine it's useless as compost unless all your plants want really sandy soil.
  41. Dawna
    I want to try using sand for my chickens, but when it rains (once in a blue moon!!) water drains from the yard and runs through the pen. I'm trying to figure out what to do to divert the water. But using sand in the pen for the coolness in the summer is a definite plus. Sometimes I leave a hose end with mister going to try to cool things off for them. It's especially bad when a hen decides to go broody!! and is on the nest constantly. I can use straw or something over the sand when we have freezing weather. We live SE of Austin, TX about 50 miles. Thanks for all the info.
  42. Onespirit03
    Jnet use the pdz stall fresh and sand in my coop the pdz helps with moisture and im sure with the smell, i dont know i haven't had an odor in the coop yet. I live in N. FL and the temps are high and high humidity (usually around 95%). The sand dries fast, when litter get wet (it rains about everyday) it can take days to dry or might not dry at all if it rains everyday. My chickens definatly love the sand (although it is play sand I get from home depot) and so do I.
  43. MLPChick
    I have been using sand in my coop and it has been great! My girls have the softest feathers and I am sure it's from the sand baths they take :) It is super easy to clean too!
  44. Tacampbell1973
    I also am wondering about the run more than the coop. One coop I have straw and the other has shavings. I couldn't make up my mind..... But the run is on dead grass over clay. uck. Probably can't afford the river rock but playground sand goes for just over two bucks a bag at Lowes...it's gotta be better than what I have now.
  45. lularat
    We've gone to sand for the run. We had used hay in half of the run, as suggested by one of my friends, but it got stinky and mucky too fast. Hard to clean poo out of hay. It was great at first and smelled good, but after about a week it had to be replaced. The sand works great, easy to scoop the poop, and the girls love digging and scratching in it.
  46. cluck cluck 123
    Got to give this a try.
  47. Wingleader
    DVICE?? HELP?? The fiance and I have been toying with putting sand in our run. We have slight drainage issues where the run is, however, and things can get muddy if there's a lot of rain. Our run is just shy of 400 square feet, not counting the coop itself. We were thinking about digging a foot down in the whole run, doing a 6-8 inch layer of gravel, covering it with a layer or two of landscaping fabric, and then putting the sand on top (again, 6 - 8 inches deep). Our thinking is that the sand won't be able to fall into the gravel, but the water will run down and through the landscaping fabric, into the gravel, and then be able to more easily dissipate into the ground. We were also going to put some raised garden beds on the outside of the run with gravel underneath them to draw the water outside of the perimeter of the run, as well, and the plants should help to suck stuff up, too. Thoughts??
  48. Joan71
    I started out with wood chips. They made such a mess. Once I read about using sand. I was all for trying it. We lined the pull out trays with sand (works much like a litter box). Just scoop out the poop and we are done. No odor using the sand. Poop dries and makes the scooping easier. I put sand in their run/big play area. It is hot here in SC so the damp sand helps keep them cool. "Damp sand" is the key word. I just spray a light mist with the water hose, and it has dried by evening from the heat. I have open air coops, open runs with tarps for shade. One run is for their dust bathing so I don't mist it. I am 70+ so I was looking for any and every way to make my work easy for me. The sand is easy to clean, and replenish. I use the sand from our backyard. We live in an area where my ground is sand. As for the dust, hay, straw and sand give off a dust when you are handling them. I wear a painting mask when working with any of these products. Good luck
  49. badmsm
    We are using sand in the perching area of our new coop. Works great so far, easy to clean and low smell.
  50. chickencrazy429
    Thank you SO MUCH for this article!! I have been considering using sand for a long time now-- and now I think I will give it a try!! Thank you!

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