Sand for Chicken Coop: What Kind of Sand & How to Use It

Colorful bantam rooster standing on sand inside a coop

Sand for chicken coops is essential for maintaining cleanliness and ensuring the comfort of your chickens. In fact, there are different types of sand that offer varying benefits, such as improved odor control and easier cleaning.

Because of this, it is important to know which kind is best for your coop’s specific needs. Basically, selecting the right sand involves considering factors like texture, absorbency, dust levels, and particle size.

This article provides a straightforward guide on choosing the best sand for chicken coops. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of using sand, how to use it effectively, and its benefits over other materials.

Is It Okay to Use Sand in Chicken Coop?

Several chickens with sand bedding

Yes, using sand in a chicken coop is a popular choice, especially in the United States, where it’s one of the most common bedding materials. As a matter of fact, sand is favored for its practicality and benefits for chicken health and coop maintenance.

Primarily, it is an all-weather material, which makes it an excellent option for various climates. It adapts well to different weather conditions, ensuring the coop is comfortable for chickens year-round.

The maintenance of sand as bedding is relatively easy as well. It aids in keeping the coop clean and reduces the presence of flies. This benefit enhances the hygiene and overall condition of the coop.

Another key advantage of using sand is that it does not rot and is reusable. This quality makes sand a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for chicken keepers.

Can You Use Play Sand in Your Chicken Coop?

Generally speaking, using play sand in your chicken coop is not advised. Unfortunately, its texture and properties can lead to serious health issues in chickens.

In particular, one significant risk of using play sand is crop impaction. Chickens tend to ingest some of their bedding, and the fine particles of play sand can cause blockages in their digestive system.

Moreover, this type of sand is known for being quite dusty. This dust can then cause long-term respiratory problems in fowls. Likewise, it is a potential hazard to human health over extended periods.

Speaking from my own experience, I once decided to use play sand for my chickens’ coop to save money. However, within days, I noticed that they began acting sick and lethargic.

I took one hen to the vet. Sadly, tests showed a blocked digestive tract full of sand. The vet said this can be fatal and advised removing the sand.

Then, I quickly cleaned out the coop and changed the bedding. Soon after, the birds perked up and returned to normal.

What Kind of Sand Should You Use?

Chicken on sand bedding in a sunlit coop

The best material to use for chicken coops is medium to coarse-grained sand or very fine-grained gravel. It’s called river bank sand, mortar sand, construction-grade sand, equestrian sand, or concrete sand.

This type of sand provides the necessary balance between being easy to manage and comfy for chickens. Plus, it avoids the health risks associated with finer sands.

Furthermore, this kind is particularly beneficial as its larger particles can be ingested by hens and used as grit in their crop. In short, this natural process aids in their digestion.

Pro Tip: Avoid very coarse sand as much as very fine sand. Coarse sand can make cleaning more challenging, especially when it comes to removing chicken poop.

Pros and Cons of Using Sand for Chicken Coop

When considering bedding options for chicken coops, understanding the pros and cons of using sand is necessary. First, here are its most notable advantages:

  • Facilitates easy cleaning: Sand simplifies the cleaning process. It’s easy to sift through, allowing quick removal of droppings and keeping the coop clean.
  • Absorbs odors: Sand is effective in absorbing waste odors, which in turn reduces the overall smell in and around the coop.
  • Provides natural grit: Chickens ingest sand naturally while pecking, which aids in their digestive process.
  • Deters pests: Unlike straw or wood shavings, sand is less hospitable to pests such as mites and lice.
  • Ensures dryness and drainage: The sand’s quick-drying nature means it does not retain moisture, bacteria, or fungi.
  • Remains durable: Sand does not decompose as rapidly as other bedding materials, making it more durable.

Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of using sand for chicken coops:


On the flip side, here are some of the disadvantages of using sand for chicken coops:

  • Heavy and labor-intensive to replace: Changing sand can be a physically demanding task due to its weight.
  • Have high ammonia generation: Sand can lead to higher ammonia levels, which are harmful to chickens’ respiratory systems.
  • Varies in quality: The effectiveness of sand as bedding can vary based on its type. For one, fine-grained sand tends to compact more than coarse-grained sand, so you’ll have to replenish it more often.
  • Conducts temperature extremes: Sand can become very hot in summer and cold in winter, causing discomfort to the chickens.
  • Can clump and harden when wet: Wet sand tends to clump and harden, which makes it difficult to clean and potentially uncomfortable for chickens.
  • Can be expensive: Depending on the type and source, sand can be generally more expensive than other bedding materials, especially for larger coops.

As you can see, sand offers several benefits, like easy cleaning and odor control, which can significantly improve the coop environment.

However, its challenges, such as the potential for high ammonia emissions and its tendency to conduct temperature extremes, should be carefully considered.

Comparing Sand vs. Other Bedding Types

A hen resting on sand bedding in a chicken coop

Before you actually buy sand for your chickens, it’s important to know how it compares with other options. Below are some of the most common types of bedding and their benefits and drawbacks:

  • Sand: Sand is praised for its ease of cleaning, odor control, pest deterrence, and durability. But it is also criticized for being heavy, potentially dusty, having quality variations, and conducting temperature extremes.
  • Straw or hay: Straw or hay is an inexpensive, comfortable bedding that provides good insulation. However, it can harbor pests, has poor moisture absorption, is prone to molding, and needs frequent changing.
  • Pine shavings: Pine shavings are known for their absorbency and odor control. They are also readily available and biodegradable. Yet, their downsides include the need for regular replacement, potential dustiness, and not being ideal for composting.
  • Cedar shavings: Cedar shavings act as a natural insect repellent and are highly absorbent with good odor control. However, they can be toxic to chickens due to natural oils, are more expensive, and are not widely recommended.
  • Aspen shavings: Aspen shavings are less dusty than pine or cedar, safe for chickens, and have good absorbency. That said, they are more expensive than pine and less widely available.
  • Recycled paper or cardboard: Recycled paper or cardboard is eco-friendly, often affordable, and absorbent. Still, it can compact easily, is not very durable, and may require frequent changes.
  • Hemp bedding: Hemp bedding is highly absorbent, low in dust, eco-friendly, and offers good odor control. But its downsides are the higher cost and lesser availability compared to other materials.
  • Rubber matting: Rubber matting is easy to clean, durable, and reusable. However, it has poor absorbency, requires additional bedding material on top, and is not comfortable for nesting.

On the whole, the choice depends on factors like budget, availability, coop design, and personal preference for maintenance and handling.

Pro Tip: It is common for fowl keepers to use a mix of materials to ensure that their feathery friends are comfortable, clean, and happy. For example, you can mix sand with pine shavings for added softness and warmth.

When You Shouldn’t Use Sand in Your Coop?

Using sand in your chicken coop may not be the best choice under certain circumstances. One such case is if you have young chickens. Chicks should not ingest sand as grit, as it can harm their developing digestive systems.

If you struggle to keep your coop dry, sand might not be the ideal bedding material as well. Sand requires an arid environment to be effective, and dampness can lead to clumping and bacterial growth.

Moreover, coops without a solid floor aren’t urged for sand bedding. Gravel or sand needs a barrier to prevent it from mixing with the soil underneath, which could lead to a messy and unhygienic pen.

Above all, this type of bedding may not be the soundest option for chicken keepers who don’t want to scoop out waste regularly. Unlike other bedding materials, sand flooring requires frequent scooping to maintain cleanliness.

How to Use Sand for Your Chicken Coop

White chicken enjoying a dust bath in sandy soil

To effectively use sand in your chicken coop, it’s best to do so during dry weather. This ensures the sand is easy to move and spread.

Dry conditions also help prevent the sand from clumping, which can occur in wetter weather.

Further, keep in mind that sand works well on various coop floor types, including cement, dirt, or wood. But for wooden floors, consider laying linoleum first. This protects both the wood and sand from moisture.

Additionally, the ideal depth for sand in a chicken coop ranges from 2 to 6 inches. However, you can opt for a deeper layer if you prefer. After all, a thicker layer of sand can offer better absorption and insulation.

Cleaning and Maintaining Sand in the Chicken Coop

In order to maintain sand in your chicken coop efficiently, investing in the right tools is essential. A taping knife, sifting pans, a shovel with holes in the blade, and a litter scooper are invaluable for this task.

For coops with roosting bars, though, using trays underneath can help collect most of the chickens’ poop.

To begin, a daily routine of scraping these trays with a taping knife into a plastic tote helps keep the coop neat. This method is effective and saves time in maintaining cleanliness.

For smaller coops, a regular kitty litter scooper used every day suffices, too. This routine only takes a few minutes and ensures that the pen remains hygienic for the chickens.

But in larger coops, using a holey shovel every 1 to 2 weeks is recommended. This shovel acts like a giant cat litter scooper, allowing for easy removal of waste from the sand without the need for severe cleaning.

Annually, it’s advisable to replace the sand in the coop. Hence, purchasing twice the amount of sand needed initially is a smart strategy. This allows for alternating sand each year.

Pro Tip: New sand doesn’t require extra heating time in warm weather, as it tends to have a lower maximum temperature. Therefore, it’s advisable to place new sand during the summer months.

Where to Buy Sand for Chicken Coop

Rooster lying in a sand filled chicken coop

You can easily purchase sand for your chicken coop online, where a wide variety of options are available.

Online platforms also offer the convenience of browsing different types of sand and comparing prices from the comfort of your home.

But if you prefer buying sand in person, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s stock a range of suitable sands. Additionally, contacting local gravel companies can be a good strategy.

In addition, you can join Facebook communities dedicated to chicken-keeping. These groups are filled with experienced keepers who can recommend the best store to buy sand from.

Pro Tip: Make sure to inspect the sand before purchasing. Some sands sold as river bank, mortar, construction-grade, equestrian, or concrete may be too fine for coop use.

In conclusion, using sand for chickens is a good thing. Yet, you have to manage it carefully so that it does not cause problems. Do you have more questions that need to be answered? Drop them in the comments below!

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