No matter how many chickens or chicks you have, you’re most likely going to be using a lot of bedding in your coop. Bedding absorbs chicken urine and droppings and also provides nesting materials for your egg-laying hens. There are many different types of bedding you can use, so it’s important to be aware of all your options.
1. Pine shavings
Pine shavings are the most popular chicken bedding among homesteaders. Pine shavings are great because it instantly absorbs chicken droppings and odor, resulting in a better and cleaner smell in your coop. Pine shavings also clump in such a way that it is easy to scoop dirty shavings out of your coop. Pine shavings are soft as well, so when your chickens lay eggs, they are less likely to break when they hit the ground.
Pine shavings are easy on your budget, too. A fifty-pound bag of pine shavings costs anywhere from $5 to $10 at pet, feed, or garden stores. You can also purchase pine shavings online. Be careful not to confuse pine shavings with pine chips, however, as the chips as there are not as absorbent or soft.
2. Straw or hay
Many homesteaders enjoy using straw or hay for chicken coop bedding. Straw or hay is certainly cheap, and many homesteaders have it in abundance. Depending on what type you find, using straw or hay for litter can contribute to a pleasantly smelling coop. Straw and hay also make it easy to find chicken droppings and keep the chicken coop clean.
Homesteaders debate on the absorbency of straw and hay for litter. While some homesteaders report that straw and hay absorb chicken dropping odor, other homesteaders claim that the materials retain too much moisture, resulting in a poor-smelling coop. Regardless of its absorbency, most chickens love hay and straw in their nesting boxes and runs.
3. Shredded newspaper
Do you have a lot of newspaper that you’d like to recycle? If so, shred it and use it for your chicken coop bedding. Although there are myths about the safety and absorbency of newsprint as livestock bedding, most of these are untrue. A study conducted at Ohio State University found the following conclusions about using newsprint as livestock bedding:
- Newsprint is up to three times more absorbent than conventional livestock bedding.
- Less newsprint is required than conventional litter to keep a livestock living area clean.
- Most ink used by printing companies are not toxic to animals or humans.
- Newspaper decomposes rapidly, so you can add soiled bedding to your compost.
Some homesteaders report that their chickens do not like newspaper bedding, so you’ll have to try it on your birds to see how they react to paper. If they eat too much of it or seem to be slipping on it, try another bedding.
4. Add a little DE
Some homesteaders add Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, to their chicken’s bedding. DE is a fine white, abrasive powder that come from a particular type of algae. DE is great for controlling odor in your coop as well as pests like lice and mites. Be sure to use food-grade, not industrial grade, DE to keep you and your chickens safe. DE can also be added to feeders and dust bath materials.
5. What to know about cedar shavings
Some homesteaders like to use cedar shavings because of their pleasant aroma. Cedar wood can collect harmful bacteria and make your chickens more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses and physical ailments.
Although pine shavings are the bedding of choice for most homesteaders, there are many options available to suit your chickens’ needs and your preferences. Bedding can be mixed as well to achieve a proper balance of absorbency, cleanliness, and smell.
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