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12 Best Chicken Bedding Materials & How to Choose the Best One
If you have just purchased a chicken coop, one of the most common questions people ask is what type of bedding you should use. There are several types of bedding, some are commercial products while others are more of a DIY style. We’ve searched the internet and talked with several chicken farmers to create a list of beddings you can use. We’ll tell you about the pros and cons of each one and share with you our experience using them so you can see if it’s right for your coop. Keep reading while we talk about absorption, softness, changing frequency, and more to help you make an informed decision.
The first material we want to talk about isn’t exactly chicken bedding. This product is a highly absorbent substance that will work along with many of the other beddings we have on this list. Since it is so absorbent, it will help reduce odors and traps ammonia. It will also help stop the spread of salmonella and other germs that enjoy a moist environment. If you want to use it, follow the instructions on the box to add it to your bedding of choice.
2. Excelsior Fiber
Excelsior fibers are fine wooden fibers that make great bedding for your chicken. This material is soft and absorbent, and each fiber is small enough to be used as filtration. It lasts quite a while, and you will only need to change it when it becomes overly soiled.
Sand is one of the more expensive substrates on this list, but it lasts a long time, and you will only need to change it twice per year. It’s clean and dries quickly, so it won’t hold moisture or allow bacteria to grow. You can use a kitty litter poop scooper to clean out your coop between changings. The only thing you will need to make sure of is that the sand is not too fine, as it will clump when it’s mixed with water, which is not ideal.
Chopped cardboard is fantastic low-cost bedding. It’s absorbent and doesn’t become compacted. It also composts quickly, so it is good for the environment, and it contains no dust. This means it won’t create dirt and grime—one of its biggest advantages over other options. However, it doesn’t last long, and you will need to change it every few days.
5. Straw and Hay
Straw and hay are the most popular beddings because they are readily available on most farms and cost very little. However, they compact easily and aren’t too comfortable. They also are not very absorbent, so you will need to change them frequently. This bedding will last only 1 week at most.
Aubiose is a commercial hemp bedding usually sold for horses, but it also makes fantastic chicken bedding. It’s soft and comfortable, and it absorbs moisture well. It’s naturally antimicrobial and dust-free. It lasts a long time, and you will only need to change it once or twice a year.
7. Wood Shavings
Wood shavings are another great choice for chicken bedding. This option lasts about 3 months and contains no dust. It’s also inexpensive, easy to use, and highly absorbent, so it works well to control odors, trap ammonia, and reduce the spread of bacteria. There are also several varieties of wood shavings you can purchase, including pine and cedar. We recommend pine because it is less expensive, and several animals have problems with cedarwood affecting their respiratory systems.
8. Shredded Paper
Shredded or recycled paper is another great bedding that is low cost. A paper shredder can help turn much of your mail into free bedding. However, you will need to watch out for glossy materials and some inks like the one on newspaper, which can easily rub on to your chicken, causing a huge mess and possibly affecting the chicken’s health. It’s comfortable and slightly absorbent, but you will need to change it every few days.
Easichick is commercial bedding for chickens. It’s wood-based bedding that uses recycled wood for a more environmentally friendly solution. It’s a little heavier than shavings, so if you have been using them and feel they blow around too much, give these a try. It’s dust-free, absorbent, and compost friendly. This usually lasts a little longer than standard wood shavings, and you should get about 4 months between changes.
10. Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are a sort of emergency bedding that you can use if you don’t have another kind. If you have a large yard that creates many clippings, it can make sense to use them as bedding. You will need to allow them to dry for a few days, so they are more absorbent. The grass is similar to hay, and you will need to change it every time you cut the grass to keep it fresh. Ensure there are no pesticides or other chemicals in the grass before using it, especially if you purchase it elsewhere.
11. Shredded Leaves
You can use shredded leaves as bedding for your chickens, but it is our least favorite. It’s easy to get them in the fall, but you will need to chop them into small pieces, which is more difficult than it sounds. Leaves also don’t absorb moisture well and tend to stay wet for a long time. Leaves can also be slippery and only last a few days as bedding.
Hemp is an amazing chicken bedding, but it is also quite expensive. It’s highly absorbent, organic, odorless, and is a natural pesticide. It lasts a long time, and you will only need to change it once or twice a year.
For many people, their choice of bedding material for their chickens has a lot to do with access to certain material. Someone with a large lawn might use grass as bedding. If you already have plenty of hay for the horses and cows, you will probably use that. Cardboard and shredded paper are inexpensive and easy to obtain and they are perfect for someone who doesn’t mind changing the coop every few days.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide and found a few kinds of bedding you haven’t heard of before. If we have helped improve your chicken’s comfort level, please share this guide to the 13 best chicken bedding materials on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image Credit: Sidorov Ruslan, Shutterstock
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.