coop bedding and composting conflict


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 19, 2011
I am a few days from putting my girls in their coop (but not letting them in the run yet, they are too small for that.) so i need to start seriously thinking about bedding materials.

I am wanting to compost my manure, but im also horrified of mites. I was wanting to do straight straw on the floor because it composts nicely but im told it also attracts mites. I could put down some DE in with it, but i worry, will that make my straw uncompostable?

Another idea i have read and sort of like is sand. Sounds clean and easy to keep mites out of, but how can i get the manure out for composting? Kitty litter scooper? does anyone use sand AND compost?

Finally, im hearing all this "poop board" talk. How much poop would you say is caught on there? if i put poop boards under my roosts would the majority of the coops poop be on there so if i had to lose some poop in the sand it wouldnt be SUCH a travesty?

What do you chicken owners/composters use, how do you do it, how often do you remove the bedding etc?
IMO the straw-mites thing is often greatly overstated.

But in Tucson, I would think that sand would be the logical bedding material to use anyway; pick the poops out (people use kitty litter scoops or fine rakes) and mix with judicious quantity of high-carbon materials in order to get optimal composting.

The thing about using straw or shavings is that the great majority of people manage their coops in such a way that you end up with way too much straw or shavings in relation to the am't of poo, and thus it composts much more poorly/slowly than it needs to.

Droppings boards catch maybe 1/3-1/2 of the total poo. -Ish. They can definitely be VERY worthwhile if you are serious about composting.

Good luck, have fun,

We're composting, and using pine shavings. I've set up a rotation for the bedding so that not much is thrown away at all.

I have a board under my roost, it catches the night time poo. Quite a bit there out of just a handful of hens. I scoop just the poo with a kitty litter scooper into a bucket, and whatever shavings are attached to the poo. Then I take that scooper and refill the areas on the board from the shavings on the ground, and move some shavings around on the ground, then lay fresh. So the shavings are always moving, but I'm hardly throwing any away or adding much new. While I'm there I grab any obvious poo on the ground. Not much in relation to what came off the board. I fill half a 5 gallon bucket on a daily basis from both the chicken and duck side.

The thing about straw, poo falls off it or sticks to it, and with the nature of it being long and thin, it isn't easy to scoop through like shavings, not without removing larger quantities of it. Think of it like a horse stall, straw you have to take the whole mess of it from the poo area, no sifting really. Shavings, you can sift through it a bit, but not much or you'll lose small poos. Fine bedding, or sand, easy to sift through and not waste a lot of it. The best thing ever created for horse bedding are the pellets that turn into a powder, barely any leaves with the poo, and a flat shovel gets the wet spots. Amazing stuff, nothing wasted. I've been thinking about trying it with the birds. It's so fine, you wouldn't miss a dried out poo nugget.
I'd imagine it would break down faster in the compost as well, since it's so small and not a flake like pine shavings are.

The only thing I would use straw for is nesting. It's just too much waste for me other wise. The finer the bedding, the less you waste.
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I have 4 hens. the run is 5 by 12 and the coop is elevated and is 4 by 5. In the run I have sand, and what everybody says about sand is true! I have only had my run/coop for a few weeks, but it is working out great. In the coop I have wood shavings and a poop board. I have clean out doors right in back of the roost (a 2 by 4, also superb)and 99% of the poop is on the board and gets whisked away in 60 seconds straight into the compost. the run I rake out about once a week and yes a little sand comes too and it too goes into the compost.
I use sand and plastic boot trays under the roosts. Every morning, I take out the trays and dump the contents into our composter. This takes care of nearly all droppings from the coop; the stray ones that end up in the sand on the floor get scooped up with a reptile litter scoop taped to a long handle so I don't have to bend over. These, too, go into the composter.

Personally, I'd rather spend 10 minutes every morning rather than face a big, nasty cleaning job mucking out months of accumulated poo crusted bedding once or twice a year.
I think it depends how big your coop is for what you use to get out the poop. If you have a smaller coop a kitty scoop is a good idea. If you have a larger coop such as myself I would first rake the poop into a pile with a leaf rake or horse rake. Then just load it into a wheelbarrow with rake or wide shovel. Sand in small quantities should have no effect on composting, as long as you have other necessary materials in the pile.
I have used sand for 2 months now and love it. I bought a snake scooper that I bought from the pet store and taped it to a broom stick. I scoop every other day. Scooping would depend on how many chicken you have. It stays fresh and clean.
We use sand/DE mix both in the coop and run. We just rake and put it in the compost pile. Once mixed with household scraps (never meats) and yard waste it makes great compost for the garden. I went to the bait store and bought several containers of worms and dumped into the compost pile and let them do their thing!

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