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Safe Chicken Bedding

What's the Best Coop Bedding for Your Chickens?

CoopJeremy Smith1 Comment

There are several different methods and materials to use for coop beddings. Today I’m going to share with you the advantages and disadvantages of each basic type of coop bedding so you can make the choice of what is best for your coop.


Straw/Hay: This is a very popular choice for coop bedding and nesting. This is because it is cheap and incredibly easy to cleanup. This does smell better than most other choices but can hold moisture as this is the reason landscapers use it. The buildup of moisture can create illness in your chickens if not cleaned at least every 3 weeks. When installed and replaced it can also be very dusty but does make for excellent composing. Chickens love this in their nesting boxes. Pest can hide and live in the straw so it is recommended its cleaned thoroughly to help keep them out. Cost $2-3 Per Bale. 

I personally use straw in our nesting boxes to keep it feeling soft and appealing to our girls. We’ve test several other options and our chickens seem to prefer straw for their nesting boxes. We do not use this on the floor of our coop due to moisture buildup.

Sand: This is a more popular option in the southern and western states. The sand is easily cleaned (similar to cleaning a litter box), very absorbent, and only needs replaced about two-three times per year. This method can be dusty and the girls will love it and use it as a giant dust bath. Sand is not pest resistant so if you do choose this option, I recommend adding delousing powder to fight against mites and when the girls take their dust baths they will self-medicating themselves to fight against mites and other small parasites that would pester them. This also will not hurt the chickens if they ingest it. If you choose sand you should use builders sand and not sand box sand as that will be too fine and clump up. Cost $2.50 Per Bag.

I personally have not tried this method in my coop but I did create a chicken dust bath for my girls and they love it. We had an issue with mites getting under their scales on their feet causing it to become red and irritated. Giving your chickens a dust bath with added delousing powder will help fight against this.

Pine Shavings: These are a popular choice as well as they smell good and are absorbent. This is also very inexpensive so it can be replaced frequently. It’s recommended to replace this every 4-6 weeks. Chickens love this in their nesting boxes. This is less dusty than sand or straw but still does get dusty over time. Wood shavings are pest resistant. This is great for brooders. Cost $4-5.50 Per Cube.

We use these in our chicken nursery for baby chicks and their mothers as its very safe for them and absorbent to protect against illness.

Saw Dust Pellets: These are very easy to first install. The pellets are extremely absorbent and will protect your chickens from illness. This can be easily composted and is pest resistant. This can be difficult to clean as it turns back into saw dust as it dries but only needs to be cleaned 2 times per year (Flat shovel recommended for cleanup). These pellets can be a bit slippery at first but once moisture is present the pellets spread into sawdust and absorb the moisture. This is not recommended for nesting boxes. Cost $5-6

I personally use this in our coop. The pellets are very little maintenance and healthy for the chickens. If you have a flat shovel its easy to clean.  This can be the most costly of all the other options but is the best option we have come crossed for our coop.

Leaves: Some people really love the idea of using leaves for their coop and why wouldn’t they? It’s free! Leaves can be shredded or whole and are easily spread. Cleanup can be a bit of a challenge if the leaves were shredded but a flat shovel will help. The leaves can hold moisture so it’s recommended to replace them at least every 3 weeks. These would be better used in a nesting box than the whole coop as it does hold moisture. This can be easily composted as well. Cost $ Free

We used these in our coop for awhile but we stopped as it because a hassle because our chickens would throw the leaves out of the nesting boxes and even scratch down to the bare floor at times scavenging through the leaves looking for grubs.

Shredded Paper: This is a wonderful idea for repurposing your old shredded papers. This can also be easily composted later on as well. Shredded Paper is absorbent and can be flipped over periodically to make sure it dries and is used to its full potential. This is a great option for a brooder and for the most part is pest resistant as well. Cost $ Free

We have used this in the past in our chicken nursery and nesting boxes. I really don’t have any complaints about it except that it would sometimes stick to the floor of the coop but that was easily fixed with scraping at it with a flat shovel.

Overall in my own coop I prefer the pine pellets on the coop floor as its easy to cleanup. However, my hens prefer the straw in their nesting boxes. Together we have both agreed to use the pellets on the floor and straw in the nesting boxes. We have a very happy coop and easy cleanup.

Jeremy Smith