This summer we added chickens to our backyard homestead. Very exciting! As new chicken owners we want to keep our chickens as natural and healthy as possible; as northern chicken owners, we want to keep them as warm and dry as possible – it gets really cold here.
We want to use the deep litter method of coop bedding. By keeping the decomposing material in the building, it creates heat and adds to the warmth of the coop. The depth of the litter can be as much as 12 inches, composed from one or more different bedding materials.
The question is: what is the best chicken coop bedding material? Here are 4 different chicken coop beddings suggested by successful chicken owners. NOTE, there is no one-fits-all solution since climate and housing play a big role in our bedding choices. Everyone needs to find the right solutions that works for their flock and their climate and housing.
Wood shavings for chicken coop bedding
The place we got our chickens from uses wood shavings for chicken coop bedding. Since this is local (the same climate) and we already had a lot of wood shavings from a renovating project, we decided to start with it. We do notice that the wood shavings keep the moisture and smell down.
Hay or straw for chicken coop bedding
Hay or straw seems to be very natural for chickens. I am sure they like it. It also composts very well. Read more about it at: Keeping Your Chicken Coop Smelling Fresh.
Leaves for chicken coop bedding
Especially for those that have lots of trees, the idea of using leaves for bedding is very appealing. Leaves are free and tend to stay dry. Ray from Praxxus55712 channel explains it very well. If you do not want to watch the whole video, start at 2:15 – 4:25. It is worth it!
Sand for chicken coop bedding
Chickens love to have a dust bath. Often they work up some soil to get it. Using sand in the coop makes it easy for chickens to have a dust bath and it takes care of the smell in the chicken run and coop as well. You can read more about it: Using Sand in the Coop.
Donna from Gardens & Chickens & Worms, Oh My! suggested a product called Sweet PDZ, it is used in horse stalls to keep them dry and cut down on odor and it is also suitable for chickens. It’s best added underneath other materials. Janet from Timber Creek Farmer uses Diatomaceous Earth under the fresh hay. AngEngland uses wood ash for mite free hens. Wood ash sand mixture makes for a great dust bath.
Working on this post helped me a lot to understand the different chicken coop bedding available to make the right choice for our hens. Hope it is helpful for someone else making the choice, too.
We invite you to subscribe to Northern Homestead and follow us on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.
We had chickens when I was a little girl. I never dreamed that raising chickens would one day be as popular as it is now. There’s nothing better than farm fresh eggs and/or fried chicken! 🙂
Same, here, we had chickens growing up but then did not even think much about chickens for way to long. Glad chickens have a come back.
Shirley Wood says
This is very informative on the process of managing the bedding in a chicken coop. We apparently are among the few folks living rural who do not own chickens. We have thought about it but worry that our dogs would be too bad. Pinning this to my Sustainability board.
One day, when you are ready. Ours are closed in safe from any dog or whatever other creature could come close to them.
Our dog and chickens run free together during the day without any problems. The chickens are locked up in the coop at night.
Kristen from The Road to Domestication says
I had no idea there was so much involved, wow! My mom has been thinking about getting some chickens, but I’m terrified of birds, so I think I’ll just leave them alone LOL
It does take some care, but so worth it.
Heidi @ Pint Size Farm says
Great list 🙂 You are totally right that one size does not fit all – we used sand and loved it, but it wouldn’t work for everybody.
I do hear good things about sand, just note sure how sand would be in winter. Thank you for sharing.
Amazing information, Anna! I did not know you owned chickens, too. You are correct about the smells – sometimes they could be really something! Well, at least from farms I have visited; I do not have coop. So dust, sand, and wood sound really good to keep the smell down and create bedding!!
Yes, it is important to keep the smell down. And if done correctly chickens do not smell.
Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai says
We don’t have chickens… (although our city just passed a law stating that you can now have a few LOL). I do have a few “chicken memories” from when I went to visit family in Mississippi. One such memory gets mentioned every time we are together. I was 4-years-old and my great aunt took me out to see her chickens. I came back inside and announced to everyone that, “Chickens are made of feathers!” So, needless to say, if I every do get chickens, I will need lots of advice on how to take care of them. Thanks, Anna.
Life With Lorelai
🙂 Thank you for sharing! Some days I wish they would be made of feathers and not poop so much ;).
Amber @ Tales of Domestica says
I love it! Someday I want chickens. I will be pinning this one!
Thank you! You and your family would love to gather fresh eggs every morning.
Clayfoot Farm says
We use the deep bed method too with a combination of straw and horse bedding for the high traffic areas. I wonder if sand is less dusty? Cheers!
Thanks for stopping by! Not sure, I think chickens work anything into dust after time.
Good ideas! I was going to try the shredded leaves thing on the video until he said the chicken eggs are buried! Gee, don’t want to have to dig up eggs every day!
I do not think it is due to the leaves though. We added leaves just recently too, and so far the chickens have no problems. They were scared of the leaves at first though, maybe because we did not shred them before adding. I figured chickens could do that them self, now they are loving it.
I dream of affordable hemp bedding to try in my coop. Maybe someday. In the meantime I have been using wood shavings in a small tractored coop. My new larger (proper) coop is almost ready to move into and I am struggling with what to use. The coop has roosts placed over poop tables that will be covered in sweet pdz which I have heard great things about. The plan is to just scoop the clumped poop from the table each morning. On the floor I plan to try a product called koop clean which is a blend of natural products. Costs more than shavings but should more absorbant, softer and warmer for the birds (I live in MI), and better for break down in the compost heap. If I lived in warmer climate I would probably go with sand but I need something warmer with better moisture control to prevent winter frost bite. So many things to consider- smell moisture control, warm, cost, composting, and ease of clean up from the coop. Everything seems to have it’s pro’s and con’s to weigh.
Thank you for sharing. Our favorite is still leaves, only problem there aren’t any in the summer. Looking forward to get lots this fall.
We had chickens a few years ago and kept them on the deep litter method. From the research I did at that time, we learned that wood uses nitrogen as it decomposes so helps to keep the ammonia smell down better than straw or anything else not wood based. This is the reason it’s not a good idea to dig wood chips into your garden, without supplementing it with manure.
We used to collect shredded computer paper from the commercial district, since most paper is made from wood pulp. It’s free, clean and the chickens liked it. The double shredded smaller pieces work best with chicks, but the larger pieces seemed to be fine for chickens.
Thank you for sharing Sheryl, this is good to know.