Top 5 Choices For Chicken Coop Bedding

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Hay, straw and hemp are the ideal choices as bedding material for chicken coops. These are cheap, easy to install and readily available at most agricultural and hardware stores. Leaves and pine shavings are also ideal for those on a tight budget.

Although chicken coop bedding material varies by region and availability, its purpose should be the same: it should provide warmth, litter absorbency, odor control, and a comfortable place for your hens to lay eggs. A dirty, damp chicken coop is a good breeding ground for microbes. So, which is the best chicken coop bedding?

There are many popular chicken bedding materials available and it can be difficult to choose the right one for your flock.

To make it easier for you, this simple guide highlights the best chicken coop bedding, plus the advantages and disadvantages of each option out there. You’ll also find detailed information about the worst chicken bedding materials on the market.

So to keep your hens comfy and your nostrils happy, here are the best choices for chicken coop bedding:

1. Hay

Many people confuse straw with hay because they are quite similar. Hay is normally harvested before plants make seed and used as food for livestock. On the other hand, straw is a byproduct of grain crops.  

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Hay is used as chicken coop bedding as it doesn’t get dirty as quickly as fresh grass, so you don’t have to change it as often while covering up odors quite well.

ProsCons
Readily availableGets stinky as it rots
AbsorbentCan harbor spores when soiled
Food-grade

2. Straw

Many backyard chicken keepers prefer straw because of its strong aroma. It’s a great choice made from grain crops such as barley, wheat, and rye and offers thick litter that insulates the coop in winter.

Just make sure to change the bedding before it gets too soiled. Mold spores can build up and cause respiratory issues in your chickens. Plus, since straw is normally harvested after the plants die, it produces high levels of ammonia. Once it’s combined with chicken poop, it adds to the smell. So straw is best used in well-ventilated chicken coops. 

ProsCons
Readily availableSmelly
It’s an excellent insulatorCan harbor mold spores
Can be used as garden mulchIf consumed, it can cause impaction

3. Hemp

Hemp is another popular chicken coop bedding material. While it’s one of the best coop bedding options out there, it’s the most expensive.

Hemp bedding may particularly be a great choice for chicken keepers who have a small coop and don’t have to buy much.

It lasts long and is a good choice for anyone who is allergic to straw, pine, or leaf mold. Hemp bedding doesn’t get soiled easily, which makes it ideal for frequently pooping chooks.

ProsCons
Clean and absorbentNot easy to find
Composts easily (biodegradable)Very expensive
Ammonia and odor controlContains long fibers that get matted on young chick’s feet
Repels parasites and pests 

4. Leaves and Grass Clippings

Your chickens will love leaves and grass clippings on the coop floor. Mixing grass clippings with mulched leaves and placing them on the floor of the coop can keep your chickens busy and entertained for a long time. The hens will spend time searching for seeds and bugs in the piles.

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Tiny, mulched leaves are very absorbent and provide a natural source of coop bedding for your chickens.

Also, leaves and grass clippings are free. Although they require more effort to put in the coop, the savings made are worth it.

ProsCons
Readily availableCan rot easily
FreeMust be changed weekly
Refreshing smell

5. Pine Shavings

Pine shavings are by far the most common bedding material in the United States, and for good reason. Available in a local feed store or supply store near you in the form of cubes, this bedding option is heat-treated to help prevent mold spores, salmonella, and E. coli.

Most backyard chicken keepers love pine shavings because they are easily available and employ the deep litter method. 

Plus, light-colored pine wood shavings can reflect wet light in the winter. They are also a great insulator for chicken coops in cold regions.

ProsCons
A great insulatorYoung birds can digest it easily when searching for food (leading to crop impaction)
Highly absorbentExpensive for large coops
Nice smell (odor control)
Easy to clean
Readily available and affordable

Bad Bedding Options for Chicken Coops

1. Cedar shavings

While some users say that cedar shavings are treated to prevent E. coli, salmonella, and mold growth, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding their usage.

This animal bedding option has a strong smell that can irritate the chicken’s respiratory system. The product also uses plicatic acid, which can break down lung cells, causing asthma and other respiratory diseases.

2. Recycled Paper

Recycled paper emits a lot of ammonia, so the bedding must be changed frequently. 

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Plus, some papers use inks containing petroleum and heavy metals, which are dangerous to both baby chicks and adult chickens.

3. Sand

Sand is a very controversial chicken coop bedding option. While some chicken owners claim that it’s inexpensive and easy to maintain, others say that it’s unclean and uncomfortable for their chickens.

Sand is normally used alongside the deep litter method and is simply turned once it becomes soiled. This means that the clean sand at the bottom is moved to the top. The litter also needs to be deep and frequently turned.

4. Cat Litter

This is undeniably the worst bedding option for chicken coops. This is because your birds can ingest it, causing digestion problems and even death.

Cat litter can also produce a lot of dust, which can cause respiratory issues in your chickens.

Do Chickens Need Bedding?

Coop bedding offers several key benefits to your chickens, including:

  • Warmth/comfort
  • Odor control
  • Litter absorption
  • Egg protection

Your coop requires bedding to make your birds comfortable, maintain cleanliness, and protect eggs from breaking.

What Are Risks of Poor Quality Chicken Coop Bedding?

Simply put, a clean coop will help keep your chickens healthy. If your coop bedding has dust or mold spores, your flock is at risk of respiratory problems and other diseases.

Provided you clean the coop at least once every fortnight and assess the condition of the bedding regularly, your birds should stay healthy.

Patrick Anampiu

Patrick is an avid pet lover and passionate writer who enjoys crafting stories and feels most alive when telling stories about people whose lives have been enriched by their pets. He enjoys adding more chickens to his flock and loves sharing insights on how to take better care of pets and other animals in our lives. When not writing and raising chickens, Patrick enjoys traveling and exploring nature in all its beauty.

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