Most backyard chicken coop owners like to use some kind of bedding for their birds. Note that bedding isn’t necessarily something that your birds will use for sleeping. Bedding is the general term used for any material you use on the coop’s floor and inside the nesting boxes.
Chicken bedding makes clean-up of the coop’s floor a lot easier. It also keeps down odors and scents and makes the coop a better place for the chickens as well as their humans.
Several types of bedding materials work for coops so you need to consider the cost and other factors before you settle on bedding that works best for your flock.
Some examples of the best chicken bedding material are given below:
What to use for chicken bedding
Sand makes an excellent chicken bedding option. It provides a natural dust-bath to your flock and chickens tend to love it. On the downside, it is heavy to carry and can also be messy. You can approach a building contractor or a sand-merchant and ask for clean, kiln-dried, salt-free sand. Alternatively, use the sand available for children’s play pits.
Sawdust is a cost-effective chicken bedding material. It is available by the truckloads in most rural settings and especially if you live close to a saw mill. On the downside, it creates a lot of dust which can harm the eyes and lungs (in humans). Also, preservative-laden sawdust can be toxic to your poultry animals or birds.
Straw or hay
Chicken bedding straw or hay is a cost-effective option for large coops or when you have several birds. Never use straw for bedding when you have chicks less than 4 weeks of age.
Always try to choose barley straw over oat or wheat straw. This is due to the fact that wheat or oat straw can be very messy and dusty and both are not very absorbent. Before you commit to buying a shed-load of straw, ask what type of straw it is.
You may also look for chopped straw or at least chop it yourself. Chopped straw makes a better chicken bedding option.
Hay isn’t a recommended choice in chicken bedding although chickens seem to love it. Be aware that hay can carry fungal spores which could lead to infectious diseases in birds, especially if they are confined to spending long hours on it.
Wood chips/shredded bark
Small pieces of garden mulch or wood chips work very well as bedding. However, it isn’t too absorbent. Stay away from artificially colored mulch as it can be toxic to the birds and could even stain their feathers.
Wood pellets/horse bedding
Wooden pellets sold as horse bedding is a great choice in chicken bedding. It is super absorbent and less dusty. Wooden horse bedding pellets are readily available online and in pet stores. Avoid using fireplace-wooden pellets as they could contain chemicals. You must lightly moisten the wooden pellets before using them.
Hemp chicken bedding
Used only for horses earlier, hemp bedding is increasingly becoming a popular chicken bedding material. It is readily available at poultry stores as well as at country stores. It is more expensive than wood shavings but also more absorbent, odor free, fresh-smelling, longer-lasting, and easier to compost.
If you subscribe to newspapers, then you can put the used ones to good use. Shred them up and use them as chicken bedding. This is one of the most inexpensive chicken bedding materials and it also reduces the ever-growing stack of used newspapers in your home.
While shredded newspapers are super absorbent and help keep the coop nice and dry; they also easily disintegrate. You must change them frequently else they tend to clump together and become slippery.
Avoid using shredded newspapers when you have very young chicks as the clumped newspapers can be toxic (if consumed) and could even cause splayed legs in younger birds.
Dried leaves are abundant during the fall months and they make inexpensive chicken bedding material. You do need to invest time in gathering adequate quantity for the coop.
Also, leaves have a tendency to gather moss and mildew which can harm the birds. You must also ensure that the leaves you gather are non-toxic to chickens. Avoid the leaves of oak and buckeye trees as they can be harmful to your flock.
Chicken nest pads
Chicken nest pads are readily available and they are comfortable for the hens and also keep the eggs fresh and clean. They consist of an array of tiny tufts coupled with holes between the tufts. This design discourages the build-up of droppings reducing contamination of eggs.
What not to use as chicken bedding?
Cat litter can be toxic to the birds and can swell and harm their crop if they peck at it. Some litters are also treated with preservatives and chemicals which can be toxic to the chickens.
The dust of vermiculite can be toxic and harmful to the lungs of humans as well as the chickens. When dry, vermiculite tends to blow the dust around and it is also quite expensive.
Many people use pine shavings and pine needles but they are slippery and also not very absorbent.
Let us now cover some commercial chicken bedding options available in the market.
Best Chicken Bedding for Coop
1. Manna Pro Fresh Flakes Chicken Bedding made with Pine Shavings
Manna Pro Fresh Flakes is an all-natural, low-moisture, and super absorbent pine shaving bedding. It has low dust and is compostable. Manna Pro heat-dries the bedding to prevent mold spores. It also screens the bedding to reduce dust and being low-dust, you can rest assured that your chickens remain free from respiratory issues.
- Covers 3.5 cubic feet, 1.22 cu. ft compressed
- Super absorbent – absorbs 2.2 lb of water per pound of bedding
- The heat-drying process also reduces growth of E.coli, fungi, etc
- Pine shavings are harvested from renewable forest resources.
- Value for money
- Excellent presentation
- Keeps the coop odor-free and fresh
- Some users complained of mold and chemical odor in their packets.
2. PetMate Pet Excelsior Nesting Pads Chicken Bedding
Nesting pads make excellent bedding for laying hens and when you wish to keep your eggs intact, manure-free, and breakage-free. PetMate Pet Excelsior nesting pads consist of wood shavings which keep the eggs dry and clean. They are also soft, hold-shape, extremely comfortable for the birds, and 100% biodegradable.
- Some users state that the ‘cannot live without these nesting pads!’
- They come with a paper-backing which makes it super easy to place the pad in the boxes. The straw-material is also firmly attached to the paper and prevents spillage outside the box.
- One pad easily lasts a couple of weeks and makes clean-up super easy.
- Laying birds find these pads very comfortable to rest upon
- Many birds that reject pine shavings seem to prefer these nesting pads.
- Deters the birds from laying eggs outside the nesting boxes.
- Durable and sturdy, these pads offer value for money
- Some chicken keepers found these nesting pads flimsy and thin; their birds tore them apart within minutes.
3. RentACoop Hemp Bedding
Hemp chicken bedding is increasingly popular these days. It is super absorbent: even more than pine, wood, or other bedding materials. Additionally, it is completely non-toxic and makes your coop smell really fresh.
- RentACoop hemp bedding is available in 48 liter and 300 liter packs. The latter can easily cover an 8×6 inch coop with a 1.5 inch thick bedding cover.
- Hemp bedding makes excellent compost after its use as bedding material is exhausted.
- The bedding can be used for a variety of small and large farm animals.
- RentACoop hemp bedding is organic and completely grown without pesticides
- Hemp is tree-free bedding material so no trees are cut in manufacture of this bedding.
- It is also dust-free which is beneficial for the flock’s respiratory health.
- Company does not disclose where the hemp is sourced from
- Expensive chicken bedding
4. Standlee FlockFresh Premium Poultry Bedding
Standlee Flock Fresh premium poultry bedding comprises of chopped straw, alfalfa, and zeolite. Apart from its use as poultry bedding, it also functions as a garden soil revitalize and is great for composting as well.
- Very soft bedding that is ultra comfortable for the birds.
- Durable – lasts for weeks
- The bedding keeps the coop really clean and fresh smelling – many folks find the smell of Standlee Flock Fresh premium poultry bedding even better than fresh pine bedding.
- Keeps hens warm in wet and cold weather
- Excellent at wicking moisture
- Value for money
- Product weight on the label is deceptive; actual weight is a lot lesser
- Contains too much dust which can induce coughing in humans and birds.
- Some users received bug-infested bedding.
5. Standlee Hay Company Wheat or Barley Chopped Straw Bedding
Standlee chopped straw bedding is a popular choice in chicken coop bedding. The product has received rave reviews from many backyard chicken keepers. Wheat and/or barley hay is absorbent, safe, and comfortable. The company also ensures weed-free products to keep your birds safe and happy.
- Super high quality, heat-treated chopped straw will keep your birds nice and toasty even in winters.
- The hay bedding keeps the coop moisture-free, odor-free, clean, and dry.
- Many chicken keepers are calling Standlee hay as a must-have chicken coop supply not just in winters, but all-year-round.
- Great for composting.
- Some users found shredded plastic, Styrofoam, and trash in their bags.
- Expensive compared to other products out there.
6. Old Dominion Hemp – Hemp Bedding for Chicken and Horses
Hemp chicken bedding is considered as one of the best chicken bedding materials and more backyard chicken keepers are opting for it.
Old Dominion Hemp is a popular hemp bedding choice for horse and chicken owners. It composts well, keeps coops super-dry, and also offers better odor and ammonia control.
- Less dusty as compared to many bedding products available out there.
- Offers superior moisture-absorbency
- Keeps odors and ammonia levels low
- Composts well
- Sustainable and renewable; good for the environment
- Available in 33lb packets
- Less acidic
- ‘Better than wood shavings’ – according to many users
- Makes coop-cleaning easier
- A few users found it slightly dusty.
- Expensive – like most hemp chicken bedding products
7. My Favorite Chicken – Chicken Nesting Pads and Aromatic Herbs Aspen Fiber Poultry Bedding
The unique feature about My Favorite Chicken® chicken nesting pads is that it also contains aromatic herbs that ensure odor-free, fresh-smelling coops. Laying chickens love this bedding so much that you will also see the results in the form of healthier, tastier eggs.
- These chicken nesting pads will give you clean, fresh, and better-quality eggs. Eggs will be on the top layer of the bedding; you won’t have to hunt or dig for them anymore.
- This Aspen fiber poultry bedding absorbs moisture quickly to keep your birds clean and dry.
- This herbal bedding also looks attractive due to the presence of colourful, dried flowers which keep your birds calm.
- These nesting pads are free from chemicals, artificial colors, preservatives, etc. Their natural essential oils prevent mold, bugs, and pests to keep your birds healthy.
- The pads measure 13×13 in dimension and are easy to set-up inside small or large coops.
- Durable, long lasting, and total value for money, these nesting pads and aromatic herbs make coop-cleaning a lot easier.
- The herbs are not compacted into the bedding material; they are loosely scattered so they tend to fall out and remain in one place when you open the packet.
- Some chickens kick and rough up the aspen fiber so they tend to end up on the floor instead of in the nesting boxes.
- Expensive as compared to many poultry bedding alternatives.
8. Kaytee All Natural Aspen Bedding
Kaytee all-natural aspen chicken bedding is available in 4 different sizes. It is ideal for small farm animals, offers superior odor-control, and is highly absorbent. Kaytee aspen bedding makes coop-cleaning easier and its soft texture is highly appealing to coop residents.
- Covers a total of 8 cu.ft
- Has a fresh, woodsy aroma that farm animals like chickens and rabbits love
- Kaytee natural aspen bedding is processed to eliminate dust and powder
- The disposable bedding is also biodegradable
- It does not contain any harsh oils which could harm chicks and smaller animals
- Super soft, highly absorbent, easy to clean
- Total value for money
- Not suitable for rodent cages
- Some bags had mites and bugs.
Chickens need good bedding to keep their coops odor-free, dry, and clean. Bedding is also needed inside nesting boxes for laying hens. Good quality bedding can actually improve the quality of eggs. After all; a happy hen will lay healthy eggs!
There are numerous choices in chicken bedding materials these days. You can go for good old wood shavings, dried leaves, aspen-shavings, straw, hay, and pine. Hemp chicken bedding is all the rage these days thanks to its super absorbency and high odor-control.
We hope the above chicken bedding choices help you zero in on the right bedding material for your backyard chicken coop.