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9 Best Bedding for Chicken Coops

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One of the biggest questions chicken owners have is, “What are the 9 best bedding for chicken coops” Choosing the right bedding could mean less cleaning, no smell, and cheap. But if you select the wrong bedding, your chickens could have some health side effects. There is a balance that you need to have when choosing bedding. For this article, the bedding that we will refer to is for the deep litter method. So before we begin, we will talk about what that is and why you should do it. 

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Chicken Coop Bedding Deep Litter Method

The deep litter method merely is composting your chicken’s waste within the chicken coop. To start this method, all you need to do is choose the right bedding for your situation. Once you have the ideal bedding, layer it inside the coop about 4 inches thick. Once a week, you will need to go out and rake it over to make sure that it is getting the oxygen that helps with composting. You will also need to add more bedding weekly if your litter is compostable. 

Using this method means that you have fewer complete cleanouts. Most owners only clean out their coops once or twice a year. In between cleanouts, they keep composting the bedding and adding more when needed. You can add this compost to your gardens, or sell it to others who need it. When done, this method can give you great benefits. But it can also have a few downsides. 

Pros:

  • When done correctly, you should have almost no smells at all from your coop. 
  • Composting in your coop will naturally warm it in the winter. 
  • Deep litter method will give your coop plenty of good bacteria to fight off the bad. Good bacteria is essential for keeping the coop clean and free of diseases. 
  • The best chicken coop bedding options will lower the nitrogen content found in chicken waste. Reducing the nitrogen makes it ideal for plants in your garden. 
  • Chickens love to scratch and scavenge in it. Some will even make a fun game out of throwing it.  

Cons:

  • You will have to add bedding to it regularly and aerate it properly, so it’s not entirely hassle-free. 
  • Your coop will need to be made for this method. Not all coops have the proper flooring to support this method, and you could damage your coop. 
  • If not done right, your chickens could get sick. Deep litter methods require a unique balance of good bacteria and moisture levels. Mold can quickly grow, and the composting could turn bad, leading to respiratory infections. 

Chicken Coop Bedding Options

Now that we have a basic understanding of why the deep bedding litter is optimal, we can talk about the best chicken coop bedding options. There are many great choices out there for bedding, but not all are created equal. Let’s explore the most common litters with their pros and cons, starting with the least favorable. 

1) Cedar

Cedar woodchips have a great smell to them and are a natural insect repellant. These chips are cheap and found in most pet stores and farm feed stores everywhere. The only downside to cedar is that the oil can cause respiratory illness in birds. These chips should never be used around chicks or any birds with health conditions already. Though some people have success with cedar, we recommend staying away from it to be safe. 

2) Gravel

Some owners use gravel in chicken coops because of the low chances of carrying pathogens. Gravel doesn’t absorb moisture, and harmful bacteria doesn’t grow inside of it like porous materials. But gravel is nearly impossible to clean and can be expensive to get started. It can also be sharp and uncomfortable for your chickens to walk on. Generally, we do not recommend using this as a chicken coop floor bedding, but some have success with it. 

3) Leaves and Grass

If you have access to large amounts of leaves and grass, these might be a viable option to use in your chicken coop. As long as the grass and leaves are completely dry and pesticide-free, they can be very absorbent. Chickens also love to use these for nesting and scratching in.

The downside is that they decompose very quickly, so you will need constant access to it. Since it decomposes quickly, it produces higher nitrogen levels. These high levels will not balance the chicken waste and will create a bad scent. Not many people can get a perfect balance needed to make these options work. 

4) Pine Needles

In many parts of the country, there are pine trees aplenty. You could rake up the needles from your lawn and repurpose them as bedding for your coop. Many people love the needles because it reacts similarly to straw, and it’s free. Chickens love to scratch around in it, and it can leave a pleasant scent to your coop. 

Pine needles do have some drawbacks, though. For one, you can’t easily buy it in stores, and if you can, it’s expensive. So for this to be the right choice as the only chicken coop floor bedding, you need lots of it. It also can make your compost a little more acidic, which can be bad for your chicken’s feet and any gardens you use the compost in. 

5) Recycled Paper

Next on our chicken coop bedding list is recycled paper. People love recycled paper because it is absorbent, fluffy, and makes perfect nesting material. You can easily get recycled paper for free, or at least at little cost. But it shouldn’t be used as the only bedding. 

There is some question as to how safe the ink in the paper is. Most paper is printed with vegan ink, but not always. And you can’t use things like magazines and receipt paper. These usually contain BPA, which is a harmful chemical that can affect your chicken’s egg production. 

6) Hemp 

Many chicken owners are starting to turn to hemp chicken coop bedding. Hemp is absorbent, keeps the smells down, and holds lower amounts of mold. Hemp bedding can also deter pests and bugs from living in your coop. The downsides of hemp are that it’s not studied of any adverse side effects it might have on chickens. It can also be hard to find depending on location, and it’s expensive to order. 

7) Corn Cob Bedding

Some people prefer to buy corn cob bedding that you can find in-store. This bedding is very lightweight and absorbent. It can also be very cheap in almost any pet supply store or online. The downside is that it takes forever to dry out. If you have a bunch of chickens, this bedding could remain so wet that it won’t compost properly and hold smells. 

8) Straw

Straw is one of the most popular chicken coop bedding. It is cheap and found almost everywhere. Straw makes excellent nesting material, and it’s super absorbent. If you don’t use this as a chicken coop floor bedding, you should at least offer it in their nesting boxes. The only downside to straw is that it holds moisture that creates mold. So you will have to tend to it regularly to prevent molding. 

9) Sand

If you live in a warm climate, sand is the best option for you. Sand will only need deep cleaning a few times a year; it absorbs quickly and is excellent for dust baths. Your chickens will love how cool it is during the hot and humid seasons. 

The downside to sand is that it is expensive to start. You will only need to replace sand once or twice a year if you keep up with maintenance. But sand is also non-compostable, so when you replace it, you will have to find somewhere to dispose of it. That means that once or twice a year, you will be paying a disposal fee and for new sand. Then you have the dusty factor and cleaning it daily to prevent bacteria. 

11) Pine Shavings

Lastly, we have pine shavings. Pine is cheap and easy to find. It stays warm in the winter and composted into your garden. Pine is also high in carbon, which neutralizes the high nitrogen in chicken feces. This balance keeps the smells away and for some of the best compost. The cons to pine are that it is somewhat dusty, so make sure that you lay it down when the chickens are out of the coop. There is also a small chance of splinters from freshly laid shavings, but this chance is relatively low. That is why we rate pine shavings as the best chicken coop bedding option. 

In Conclusion

The best bedding for chicken coops depends on your area and needs. Most people favor the pine woodchips because of its cost-effective efficiency. But, you can also mix it with others to make the best chicken coop bedding option for you. Common combinations include pine shavings with straw and dried grass for a good composting mixture. You will know you have found your perfect combination when you don’t have to clean as much, and there is little to no smell. A clean coop is a happy coop. 

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!

Types of chicken bedding

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