Hey there, chicken lovers! Here at OverEZChickenCoop, we often get asked the question, “What should I put on the floor of my coop?”
When deciding what bedding to use in your coop, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Moisture Control
- Bacteria & Fungal Growth
- Rodent and Insect Control
- Dust Baths & Scratching
- Clean, Healthy Environment
- Clean-Up / Maintenance
So sit down, grab your reading glasses and get egg-cited because we’ve written up a list of suitable materials to help inspire you and your coop!
Sand seems to provide the best moisture control in your coop and facilitates the least amount of bacteria and fungal growth. Sand actually removes moisture from the chicken droppings leaving your coop fresher, drier, and cleaner than most other materials.
Sand also does a fantastic job at keeping flies, insects, and rodents out of the coop because it does not retain moisture or rot or decay.
Sand provides great temperature control as well. It keeps your coop cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In cold weather, sand inside the coop will stay dry and dust-bath ready. In wet climates, the water drains through the sand, eliminating water puddles and material decomposition from happening.
AND sand is great for your chickens! It not only provides your chickens with a fantastic dust bath, but sand is used as grit in your chicken’s gizzard and thus beneficial to their digestive system. A win win!
✓ Moisture Control ✓ Temperature Control ✓ Healthy for Chickens ✓ Rodent and Insect Control ✓ Good in Cold and Wet Climates
✕ Heavy / Harder Clean-Up ✕ Possible Health Effects ✕ Not Compostable
While sand is an excellent addition to permanent coop floors that sit on the ground, it may not be the best option for removable coop floors due to its heaviness. Its heavy nature also makes for a harder, more laborious clean-up.
While sand is good for your chicken’s gizzard, they may mistakenly eat sand that is mixed in with their droppings, possibly leading to health issues such as E.coli in your chickens.
Sand cannot be composted in your garden. This is certainly a deal breaker for some.
NOTE: Be sure to use NATURAL sand. You do not want to use manufactured sand. Manufactured sand is undesirable for dust bathing or chicken litter for that matter.
PROS: ✓ Convenient ✓ Good Insulation ✓ Lightweight ✓ Fun for Chickens
Straw seems to be the most popular material used in chicken coops primarily due to its convenience. Most farms have an abundance of straw so it is a quick and easy way to reuse and repurpose what you already have. However, if you have urban chickens, convenience might not be at play here.
Straw maintains a light and fluffy space and is a much lighter clean up than sand. Straw provides a nice layer of insulation against the floor and not to mention, chickens love to scratch and play in it!
CONS: ✕ May Be Dangerous for Chickens ✕ Not Highly Absorbent ✕ Frequent Clean Up
Straw, especially if unchopped, can block your chickens digestive route and cause an impacted crop.
Straw is not as absorbent as other materials and does not control moisture very well which reduces its effectiveness at keeping insects, bacteria and fungus out.
It can be difficult to clean up due to it’s clumping and matting nature and will need to be replaced frequently because it may harbor toxins and odors that could be harmful to your chickens.
NOTE: Make sure to use chopped straw! Unchopped straw can cause crop impaction in your chickens and tends to mat easily when mixed with manure which holds moisture.
PROS: ✓ Moderately Dry and Absorbent ✓ Good Insulation ✓ Low Cost ✓ Compostable ✓ Great Look and Feel ✓ Lightweight
Pine shavings fall in the middle of the spectrum between sand and straw. Although not as absorbent as sand, they do a better job at soaking in moisture than straw.
Pine shavings do a decent job at insulating your coop, they are a great low cost option, and a great choice if you are using the deep litter method or plan to compost your coop material.
Pine shavings neutralize odor and create a nice smell of pine in your coop. The shavings create a fluffy, fresh and soft look and feel in your coop that many people (and your chickens) love.
Pine shavings are good for both raised coops and coops on the ground. They are lightweight, easy to transport and easy to store!
CONS: ✕ May be Harmful to Chickens ✕ Super Dusty
Pine shavings have been reported to be toxic to chickens (especially chicks), but the jury is still out on this so make sure to do your research before choosing this material.
Pine shavings are also incredibly dusty which is not only a nuisance when it comes to keeping a clean coop, but the dust may also cause respiratory problems for both you and your chickens. We recommend finding “dust extracted” pine shavings to help with this problem.
NOTE: Do not use cedar shavings! Cedar shavings give off toxic fumes that can cause asthma and respiratory illness in your chickens. Also, make sure to buy untreated shavings as the chemicals on treated wood are harmful to your chickens.
PROS: ✓ Free ✓ Good in a Pinch ✓ Mixes Easily with Other Materials
While shredded paper is not the most common material to use, some chicken lovers resort to it when needed. If you need to throw something down in your coop to tie you over until you can get your regular bedding, shredded paper will do the job. It can also be easily mixed with other types of material to create more bedding in a pinch.
Shredded paper is free! You can find and gather all kinds of recyclable paper such as newspaper or office paper to shred, with the only cost being labor!
Shredded paper can definitely be composted and the earthworms love it.
CONS: ✕ Can be Toxic to Chickens ✕ Not Long Lasting
The ink on shredded paper may be toxic for chickens to digest and office paper tends to be heavily treated and processed.
Paper will not last long in your coop. It is not very absorbent and when wet, it becomes matted and slick making for a messy and difficult clean up.
PROS: ✓ Free ✓ Natural ✓ Compostable
Organic matter is the most natural litter choice as it is what you would naturally find outside.
Grass clippings can be used if you have enough but make sure the grass has not been sprayed with pesticides or any other chemicals.
Chickens enjoy almost anything from the garden as well. Weeds, greens, lettuce, clover, and even broccoli will all win you brownie points with your chickens.
Leaves are also a doable option in your coop. Using leaves on the floor of your coop is free of cost and will be a big money saver, especially for larger coops. Chickens enjoy playing and scratching in leaves and there are typically yummy bugs in there for them to eat too!
Leaves are a great starter to the deep litter method and also are great in your compost!
CONS: ✕ Retains Moisture ✕ Breaks Down Quickly
Leaves are not great when wet. They will actually retain moisture instead of absorbing the moisture which may lead to mold and odor problems. Leaves also tend to mat down when wet, which makes a slippery surface that could lead to chicken injuries.
Leaves break down more quickly than other materials so you may have to add or change out the bedding more frequently.
NOTE: Try not to use a lot of oak leaves! They contain tannins that can be harmful to your chickens if they eat too many.