8 Best Bedding Options for Your Chicken Coop

Backyard chickens in a coop with bedding

Choosing the right chicken bedding is crucial for ensuring the health and comfort of your flock. Specifically, it has a direct impact on the cleanliness and dryness of the coop, as well as the well-being of your chickens. 

With numerous options available, it can be difficult to choose the perfect bedding. But one thing’s for sure: there are certain factors you should consider in choosing, such as absorbency and odor control.

To learn more about various bedding materials, read the rest of this guide! This will ultimately guide you in creating a safe, comfortable, and healthy environment for your chickens.

8 Best Chicken Bedding to Use in Your Chicken Coop

1. Straw


Straw is derived from the dry stalks of cereal plants like wheat, barley, and oats after the grain and chaff have been removed. 

The hollow tubes of straws offer natural insulation, making it a cozy option for chickens to nest and roost on.

Pros of Using Straw

  • Straw is generally less expensive compared to other bedding materials.
  • It helps to keep the coop warm, especially in cooler climates.
  • It is highly absorbent and capable of soaking up to seven times its weight.

Cons of Using Straw

  • Straw can cause mold growth if not managed properly.
  • It is less effective in controlling odors.
  • It can cause crop impaction to chickens when consumed in large amounts.

How to Maintain Straw in Your Chicken Coop

To maintain straw bedding, do regular checks for dampness and soiling. Straw should also be fluffed daily to maintain its insulation properties and to prevent matting. 

Make sure to replace the straw weekly, or more often in wet conditions, to avoid the development of mold and bacteria.

Where to Buy Straw for Your Chicken Coop

When looking to buy straw for your chicken coop, local farm supply stores or agricultural centers are the go-to places. You can also source straw directly from farmers, particularly during harvest time. 

When purchasing, ensure the straw is clean, dry, and free from mold or any chemicals.

2. Pine Shavings

Pine shavings

Pine shavings are thin slices of pine wood, which is a softwood tree commonly found in many parts of the world. 

These shavings are produced during the woodworking and lumber processing industries, typically as a byproduct. 

Fun Fact: In a global study on broiler chicken production, wood shavings were ranked as the top bedding material. 

This study, which combined field research and growers’ experience, used the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) to effectively determine the most suitable bedding materials for different regions and scenarios.

Pros of Using Pine Shavings

  • It is highly suitable for use in laying boxes.
  • The natural pine scent of the shavings helps in controlling odors in the coop.
  • It can be used for the deep litter method.

Cons of Using Pine Shavings

  • Pine shavings can be dusty, which may affect the respiratory health of chickens.
  • They are typically more expensive than other bedding materials like straw.
  • Young chickens may face the risk of ingestion.

How to Maintain Pine Shavings in Your Chicken Coop

Pine shavings require frequent fluffing to keep them loose and absorbent. Monitor the shavings for damp spots or areas soiled by chicken waste and remove these patches immediately. 

A complete change of pine shavings should be done every month to maintain hygiene. 

Pro Tip: To minimize dust, which can be an issue with pine shavings, consider using larger flake sizes because they tend to be less dusty.

Where to Buy Pine Shavings for Your Chicken Coop

Pine shavings can be purchased at farm supply stores, pet stores, and online retailers. 

When buying, look for larger flake sizes to minimize dust, and prefer kiln-dried shavings for their superior absorbency and reduced dust content.

3. Hemp 

Hemp bedding

Hemp bedding is a green choice for chicken keepers. It is made from the stalks of the hemp plant, which is an environmentally sustainable crop. 

Unlike other parts of the hemp plant used for fabric, food, or CBD oil, the stalks are processed into a highly absorbent, fibrous material to make beddings. 

Pros of Using Hemp

  • Hemp is naturally resistant to pests and insects.
  • It produces minimal dust, which promotes better respiratory health for chickens.
  • Hemp is an eco-friendly and sustainable bedding material.

Cons of Using Hemp

  • Hemp bedding is more expensive compared to traditional materials like straw or pine shavings.
  • It’s less widely available and might require ordering online or specialty purchases.
  • Hemp is heavier than other beddings, making handling and changing more labor-intensive.

How to Maintain Hemp in Your Chicken Coop

Due to its high absorbency, hemp doesn’t need to be replaced as frequently as other beddings, but monitoring for moisture levels is still essential to maintain a healthy environment for your chickens.

In my coop, I make it a routine to probe into the hemp bedding, not just on the surface but also deeper down, about twice a week. This helps identify any wet spots that aren’t immediately apparent.

Spot cleaning is another integral part of my maintenance routine. When I find an area that’s soiled or damp, I scoop out just that portion and replace it with fresh hemp. 

Where to Buy Hemp for Your Chicken Coop

Hemp bedding can be found at specialized farm supply stores, pet stores, or through online retailers similar to pine shavings. 

When purchasing hemp bedding, ensure it is specifically processed for animal use, free from chemicals or additives, to guarantee the safety and health of your chickens.

4. Sand 

Sand bedding in chicken coop

Sand is considered a practical bedding choice for chicken coops. It consists of finely granulated rocks and mineral particles, with its texture varying based on its source and composition. 

Recent field studies under commercial conditions have revealed that broilers raised on sand bedding grow similarly to those raised on shavings, with comparable moisture and ammonia levels across both types of litter. 

Fun Fact: Beetle populations, which are often a concern in chicken coops, are also found to be lower in sand litter.

Pros of Using Sand

  • Sand provides excellent drainage, so it keeps the coop floor dry.
  • It is easy to clean and maintain, similar to cleaning a cat’s litter box.
  • Sand helps in controlling pests like mites due to its abrasive nature.

Cons of Using Sand

  • Sand does not provide insulation, which means it is less ideal in colder climates.
  • It can be heavy and difficult to replace or move around.
  • In wet climates, sand may become clumpy and hard, creating an uncomfortable surface for chickens.

How to Maintain Sand in Your Chicken Coop

Regularly rake and sift the sand to remove droppings and keep it clean. Don’t forget to replace it annually or when it becomes too compacted. 

Also, ensure proper drainage in the coop to prevent the sand from becoming waterlogged and heavy.

Where to Buy Sand for Your Chicken Coop

Sand can be purchased from hardware stores, landscaping suppliers, or garden centers. 

Choose construction-grade or river sand, as these types are coarser and less dusty. Avoid using fine play sand, as it can compact easily and isn’t as effective for drainage.

5. Hay

Hay bedding

Hay is a common agricultural product, typically made from grasses and legumes such as alfalfa, clover, and ryegrass. It’s cut, dried, and stored for use as animal fodder, but it also finds its way into chicken coops as bedding. 

Pros of Using Hay

Cons of Using Hay

  • Hay can harbor strains of bacteria if not stored properly.
  • It’s less effective at controlling odors compared to other bedding materials.
  • Hay decomposes quickly and requires more frequent replacement.

How to Maintain Hay in Your Chicken Coop

Hay bedding needs maintenance similar to that of pine shavings and straws. It needs to be monitored closely for signs of moisture, as it can quickly become a breeding ground for mold and pests. 

You should replace it at least every two weeks or more frequently if it becomes wet or heavily soiled. Fluffing regularly is also essential. 

Where to Buy Hay for Your Chicken Coop

Hay can be purchased from local farms, agricultural supply stores, or feed stores. 

When buying hay, choose bales that are dry and free from mold or dust. It’s best to store hay in a dry, ventilated area to maintain its quality for use in your chicken coop.

6. Grass clippings 

Grass clippings

Grass clippings can be repurposed as bedding in chicken coops. These clippings are simply the cut portions of lawn grass, which vary in type depending on the region and lawn care practices. 

Pros of Using Grass Clippings

  • Chickens will naturally stir it up because it imitates the natural environment. This will keep it fresh for long.
  • They are readily available and cost-effective, especially if sourced from your own yard.
  • Grass clippings decompose quickly, so they are good for composting.

Cons of Using Grass Clippings

  • They can mat down and become compacted.
  • Grass clippings may contain pesticides or chemicals from lawn care products.
  • They need to be replaced frequently due to their rapid decomposition rate.

How to Maintain Grass Clippings in Your Chicken Coop

When adding fresh grass clippings, ensure they are dry and free from lawn chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides. 

Wet clippings can introduce excess moisture into the coop, leading to issues with odor and hygiene. If possible, spread the clippings out to dry in the sun before adding them to the coop.

Make sure to change grass clippings regularly to prevent them from matting and compacting. Also, consider mixing them with other bedding materials like straw or wood shavings. 

Check out this video on how to put grass clippings on your chicken coop:

using “grass clippings” for chicken coop and baby chicks (animal bedding) hay

Where to Buy Grass Clippings for Your Chicken Coop

Grass clippings are typically not sold commercially but can be easily collected from your own lawn or obtained from a neighbor’s yard.

If collecting from other sources, verify the lawn care practices to ensure the clippings are safe for your chickens.

7. Dried leaves 

Dried leaves

Dried leaves come from deciduous trees that shed their leaves annually. Once these leaves dry, they become lightweight and crumbly, which provides a natural and comfortable bedding material. 

Pros of Using Dried Leaves

  • Dried leaves are highly accessible and often free, especially in autumn.
  • They provide a natural environment for chickens and encourage foraging behavior.
  • Dried leaves are compostable and are ideal for a sustainable coop management practice.

Cons of Using Dried Leaves

  • Their availability is seasonal.
  • They need to be chopped to improve absorbency, which can be a lot of work.
  • They require regular replacement to maintain effectiveness and hygiene.

How to Maintain Dried Leaves in Your Chicken Coop

Regularly rake and fluff the leaves to prevent compaction and ensure they remain dry. Replace them frequently, especially after rain or when they start to decompose, to keep the coop clean and comfortable for the chickens.

Where to Buy Dried Leaves for Your Chicken Coop

Dried leaves can usually be collected for free from your own yard or a nearby park. 

They are not typically sold in stores, but some garden centers or landscaping services may offer them, especially in bulk during the autumn season. 

8. Shredded paper

Shredded paper

Shredded paper is commonly derived from office paper waste, newspapers, and other unused paper products. This material is produced by cutting or tearing paper into smaller pieces using a shredder. 

Pros of Using Shredded Paper

  • Shredded paper is highly accessible and usually cost-free.
  • It is lightweight and easy to handle when cleaning the coop.
  • It is a great way to recycle paper waste.

Cons of Using Shredded Paper

  • Shredded paper may contain ink or chemicals, depending on its source.
  • It offers minimal insulation compared to other bedding materials.
  • It can become compacted and lose its absorbency quickly.

How to Maintain Shredded Paper in Your Chicken Coop

Shredded paper bedding should be turned over regularly to prevent it from compacting and to check for dampness. 

You need to replace it once it becomes soiled or wet, typically more frequently than other bedding materials due to its lower absorbency. 

Before I used hemp bedding, I actually tried out shredded paper in my coop. Initially, I wasn’t too particular and used various types of paper. 

However, I quickly realized the potential harm of inks and dyes, which can contain chemicals that might be detrimental to the chickens’ health. I switched to using plain, ink-free office paper, which was safer.

Where to Buy Shredded Paper for Your Chicken Coop

Shredded paper is often available for free from local offices or can be made at home using a paper shredder. Some office supply stores or recycling centers may also offer bulk shredded paper suitable for bedding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Small chicken coop with straw bedding

What Is the Best Bedding for Chickens?

Pine shavings are considered the best bedding for chickens due to their high absorbency, natural odor control, and comfort for the chickens. 

Other popular options include straw and sand, depending on the specific needs of your coop and climate.

How Often Should I Change the Chicken Coop Bedding?

Chicken coop bedding should be changed regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent diseases. Typically, a complete change of bedding is recommended every month. 

However, if you’re using the deep litter method, a thorough cleaning twice a year is sufficient, with regular top-ups of fresh bedding material.

What Are the Most Cost-Effective Bedding Materials?

The most cost-effective bedding materials for chicken coops are straw and pine shavings. Straw is usually cheaper and widely available, but pine shavings offer better absorbency and odor control. 

When considering cost, also factor in the frequency of bedding changes and the amount required for your coop size.

How Deep Should Chicken Bedding Be?

The depth of chicken bedding should be around 4 to 6 inches. This depth provides sufficient cushioning and insulation and allows for the effective absorption of moisture and odors. 

If using the deep litter method, the bedding will gradually become deeper as more material is added over time.

Have you tried any of the chicken bedding we’ve listed above? Share your experiences below! Leave a comment, too, if you have questions or clarifications.

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