The Best Chicken Coop Bedding

Finding the best chicken coop bedding is important for the health of your chickens and the ease of cleaning your coop. Below you can see suggestions on which bedding is best, what to consider when choose bedding for your chicken coop, and how to manage the bedding in your chicken coop.

It’s important to note that while we refer to this as bedding – chickens don’t actually sleep in the bedding. They sleep on roosting posts above the ground – so it may be more appropriate to call it chicken floor covering!

Looking for more information on Raising Chickens? Check out Everything you Need to Know about How to Raise Backyard Chickens.


Quick Answer: The Best Chicken Coop Bedding for Most People

If you are looking for a quick and solid solution for the best chicken coop bedding, I recommend starting with pine shavings. These are excellent as absorbing water and chicken droppings, relatively easy to find and inexpensive and add a pleasant aroma to the coop.

There are many reasons that you may choose a different type of bedding (like straw or sand) based on the climate where you live, your coop and other factors. Read more below on what else to consider.

Best Chicken Coop Bedding
The Best Bedding for Chicken Coops

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Types of Chicken Coop Bedding

Straw: Straw is a popular choice for chicken bedding. It’s affordable, generally readily available, and provides good insulation in cold weather. However, it can become moldy if it gets wet and may need frequent replacement. I don’t love straw in our damp environment as it doesn’t provide as much in terms of moisture.

Pine Shavings: Pine shavings are absorbent, easy to clean, and provide good insulation. They also have a pleasant smell. Make sure to use pine shavings specifically, as cedar shavings can be harmful to chickens. This is our favorite option and what we use the most in our coop.

Hemp Bedding: Hemp bedding is becoming increasingly popular as it’s highly absorbent, has natural antimicrobial properties, and is environmentally friendly. It’s more expensive than some other options but requires less frequent replacement. We have never used hemp – specifically due to the cost, but it can be a good option. See more about Hemp Bedding.

Sand: Sand is excellent for drainage and can help keep the coop clean and dry. It’s also easy to clean by sifting through it regularly. However, it doesn’t provide insulation, so it may not be the best choice in colder climates without additional heating. We don’t typically use sand in our coop, but it can be a great option for people in warmer climates.

Shredded Paper: Shredded paper can be a cost-effective bedding option, especially if you have access to a lot of it. However, it doesn’t provide much insulation and may need frequent replacement. This is a good option for reusing something. It doesn’t have quite as much absorbant power as pine shavings, but we like adding to our coop alongside pine shavings to get the benefit of both.

Best Chicken Coop Bedding
Best Bedding for Chicken Coop

What to Consider when Selecting Chicken Coop Bedding

  • Absorbency: Look for bedding materials that are absorbent and can soak up moisture effectively. Wet bedding can lead to bacterial growth, ammonia buildup, and health issues for your chickens. Absorbent bedding helps maintain a dry and clean environment. THIS IS THE TOP CONSIDERATION FOR ME.
  • Insulation: Depending on your climate, consider the insulation properties of the bedding material. In colder regions, bedding that provides insulation can help keep the coop warmer and prevent frostbite in chickens. Materials like straw and pine shavings are good insulators.
  • Odor Control: Choose bedding that helps control odors. Ammonia buildup from chicken waste can be harmful to their respiratory health. Some bedding materials, such as hemp, have natural antimicrobial properties that can help reduce odors.
  • Comfort: Ensure that the bedding provides a comfortable surface for your chickens to walk and rest on. Rough or uncomfortable bedding can lead to foot injuries or discomfort for the birds.
  • Safety: Avoid bedding materials that may be harmful to chickens if ingested. For example, cedar shavings contain aromatic oils that can be toxic to poultry. Stick to safe and non-toxic bedding options.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Consider how easy it is to clean the coop with the chosen bedding material. Some bedding types, like sand or pine shavings, are easier to scoop or rake out, while others may require more frequent complete replacement.
  • Availability and Cost: Choose bedding materials that are readily available in your area and fit within your budget. Some options may be more expensive initially but could be cost-effective in the long run due to their longevity or other benefits.
  • Environmental Impact: Consider the environmental impact of the bedding material. Opt for renewable and biodegradable options whenever possible. Materials like straw, hemp, or shredded paper are eco-friendly choices.
  • Pest Control: Some bedding materials, like straw, may attract pests such as mites or rodents. Consider using bedding that repels pests or regularly inspect and treat the coop for pests if necessary.

The Best Bedding for YOUR Chicken Coop

As you can see, it’s hard to select the best chicken coop bedding since you may need to adjust based on many different factors. This chart can help you determine the best bedding for your coop. I put this together based on my own personal experience, but it’s important to note that some of these depends on how you are using the bedding – for example shredded paper made from most newsprint is safe, but if you use shiny paper, it may contain toxic chemicals.

Best Chicken Coop Bedding
Best Chicken Coop Bedding

What Bedding NOT to Use in Your Chicken Coop

There are a few things that you should not use in your chicken coop. Below are some of the bad chicken coop bedding options:

  1. Cedar Shavings: Cedar shavings have aromatic oils that can be harmful to chickens’ respiratory systems, potentially leading to respiratory issues and other health problems.
  2. Cat Litter: Cat litter, especially the clumping kind, can pose a risk of intestinal blockages if ingested by chickens. Additionally, the dust from some types of cat litter can irritate chickens’ respiratory systems.
  3. Sawdust from Treated Wood: Sawdust from treated wood contains chemicals such as arsenic and creosote, which can be toxic to chickens if ingested or inhaled.
  4. Straw Treated with Pesticides: While straw is commonly used as bedding, straw treated with pesticides or herbicides can be harmful to chickens if they ingest it or come into contact with it.
  5. Newspaper with Glossy Ink: While newspaper can be used as bedding, avoid using newspaper with glossy ink, as the chemicals in the ink may be harmful to chickens if ingested.
  6. Hay or Alfalfa: Hay and alfalfa can become moldy when damp, leading to respiratory issues and other health problems for chickens. Additionally, hay and alfalfa may harbor mites and other pests.

What about the Deep Litter Method?

If you are searching for information on the best bedding for chicken coops, you will likely come across the deep litter method. Some chicken keepers use the deep litter method, where layers of various bedding materials (such as straw, pine shavings, and leaves) are added to the coop over time. As the layers decompose, they provide warmth, insulation, and a composting effect that helps control odors.

We’ve been using the deep litter method during the winter months for the last decade with general success. We like how easy it is in the winter and have found that it generally keeps our chicken coop dry and smelling good. My only complaints are that the spring cleanout is pretty rough and in order to get your bedding to add heat from decomposition, you need a lot of bedding (at least 6 inches).

Here is a quick step by step guide to using the deep litter method:

  1. Initial Bedding: Start by adding a thick layer of bedding material, usually several inches deep, to the floor of the coop. This initial layer serves as the foundation for the deep litter system.
  2. Regular Additions: Over time, as the chickens scratch, peck, and move around the coop, the bedding material will become soiled with droppings, feathers, and spilled feed. Instead of removing this soiled bedding, additional layers of fresh bedding are added on top.
  3. Aerobic Decomposition: As the layers of bedding accumulate, they undergo a process of aerobic decomposition. Beneficial microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down the organic material, converting it into compost. This process generates heat, which helps to keep the coop warm in colder weather.
  4. Odor Control: The deep litter system relies on the aerobic decomposition process to control odors. The microbial activity helps to break down waste materials and prevent the buildup of ammonia, resulting in a relatively odor-free environment.
  5. Regular Turning: Periodically, usually every few weeks or as needed, the deep litter bedding should be stirred or turned over with a rake or pitchfork. This helps to aerate the bedding, promote decomposition, and distribute any accumulated moisture evenly throughout the material.
  6. Addition of Amendments: Occasionally, you may choose to add additional amendments to the deep litter bedding to enhance microbial activity and odor control. This could include materials such as agricultural lime, diatomaceous earth, or beneficial microorganism supplements.
  7. Periodic Cleaning: While the deep litter method does not involve complete removal of the bedding, it’s important to periodically monitor the condition of the bedding and remove any excessively wet or soiled areas. This helps to maintain a healthy living environment for the chickens and prevents the buildup of pathogens.

Suggestions for Other Chicken Coop Supplies

Are you looking for more information about supplies for raising chickens check out:

Best Chicken Coop Bedding
Best Chicken Coop Bedding

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