There are several choices when it comes to chicken bedding material. In this article, I rate some of the chicken coop bedding I have used, from wood shavings and straw to shredded paper and cardboard, and even some of the specialist poultry bedding like Easichick and Auboise. This will help you to decide on the best bedding for your chickens.
The most obvious requirement is that chicken bedding materials should be safe for your birds to use, but other desirable bedding qualities are that it should not compact down and should be absorbent. Damp bedding encourages bacteria, some of which can be harmful to poultry and release ammonia, damaging the respiratory system.
Here are the chicken bedding materials I have tried; some have worked well and others not so well in the chicken house. Every set-up is different, and it can take a little trial and error to find suitable bedding for the size of your coop and the time you leave between cleaning your birds out.
Wood shavings for chickens
Dust extracted wood shavings for chickens are among the most popular bedding materials as they are relatively cheap, very absorbent and easy to use. Shavings keep smells down and reduce ammonia in the air from droppings that can cause respiratory damage and eye problems.
Shavings also provide insulation from the cold ground during harsh winter weather.
Be careful when raising young chicks or ducklings on wood shavings. Chicks will often peck at them until they know where to find their food, whilst ducklings can even die by eating wood shavings when they are young.
It is best not to introduce wood shavings to young birds for at least a couple of weeks.
Shavings must not be derived from hardwood timber because certain fungi and moulds can cause problems. Sawdust should also be avoided as the dust can cause respiratory problems.
Wood shavings for chickens can usually be bought in a compressed ‘block’ from pet shops or online but ensure they are dust extracted. Dusty wood shavings and inadequate ventilation in the hen-house can cause respiratory problems in hens. Look for Pinewood, which has the added benefit of being a natural antiseptic, so you don’t get as many nasty odours.
One negative point of wood shavings as chicken coop bedding is that it will take over a year to make compost with chicken manure before you can add them to the garden.
Still, I use wood shavings the most in my chicken houses at home.
You can buy wood shavings for chickens online here. Long-term, it’s usually better to support your local farming supply store or pet shop.
Straw is usually cheap and can be used as a bedding material, although it compacts easily and isn’t very absorbent, so it will need changing regularly.
I know some people who are using a chopped straw, and this is more convenient than bales. They buy it in compressed bales and change it regularly. It composts quickly so can soon be used in the garden.
Personally, I haven’t found straw to work well for me. I can’t always clean my birds out weekly and I find it gets too messy unless it’s changed regularly.
I prefer to only use straw in nest boxes and not for chicken bedding.
In late summer, I make hay on our smallholding as well as locally for other people. This is part of managing our wildflower meadows. We have no hay shortage, but unfortunately, I cannot use it as chicken bedding material.
Hay must not be used for bedding because it soon gets damp, and that can cause fungal spores to grow that can cause aspergillosis.
This disease is contracted by inhalation when there is a high spore count in the air, which can happen in a relatively short period of time given the right conditions.
Nesting boxes for hens are an exception because they are usually kept clean and dry.
Shredded paper can be used as chicken coop bedding, but it isn’t a perfect choice since it compacts easily and isn’t very absorbent. Depending on how it has been shredded and how thick it has been layered depends on how absorbent it is. It can work in nesting boxes if it’s changed regularly before it compacts. I find it tends to end up out of the nest boxes in no time at all.
I wouldn’t recommend shredded paper as chicken coop bedding, but if you have a free supply, such as a paper shredder at work, it can be used with care in nest boxes but keep in mind it will need a regular top up and rarely stays in the nest boxes for long!
Chopped cardboard is one of my personal favourites and a good choice for chicken coop bedding material. It is more absorbent than shredded paper and doesn’t get as compacted as paper or straw. It will compost quickly and can then be dug into the ground as compost. It is dust-free, which is a big advantage over other bedding types.
Most chopped cardboard bedding manufacturers use clean, recycled cardboard (often, offcuts that are recycled from the cardboard manufacturing industry). The card isn’t coloured, so there are no chemicals from the colourings going into your compost either.
Strangely the only thing I dislike is the look of it! It doesn’t look very nice having squares of cardboard as chicken bedding; I prefer a more natural substrate.
Pillow Wad is one of the more popular brands and is available to order online.
Auboise is fast becoming one of the most popular beddings for poultry and other small animals. I like it because it lasts longer than wood shavings but also rots down quickly on the compost heap, so in a small garden, it can soon be put to good use and spread on the garden. Auboise also has natural fly repellent qualities.
If I only had a few chickens or one chicken coop, I would use Auboise, it’s only because I have several chicken houses that the cost becomes prohibitive for me.
Auboise is made from natural hemp and is dust-free. It is far more absorbent than straw and even wood shavings.
You can buy Auboise online here.
Easichick bedding was designed specifically for birds (poultry, pigeons, canaries and budgies). It is a wood-based product that is made from recycled wood and is biodegradable.
Easichick is dust-free, absorbent and free-draining, but the best part is it doesn’t blow around as wood shavings do.
Believe me, on a windy day; this is useful. The ‘wind tunnel effect’ you get between the chicken house pop hole and the access door when you open it can mean you’ll end up with most of your wood shavings blowing into the garden!
Easichick is a recycled wood product that is naturally dust and bacteria-free. It stays loose, which keeps it aerated, enabling the bedding to stay dry. It composts easily to spread on the garden. It is approved for use in organic farming systems.
I love Easichick and my chickens certainly love scratching through it. I use Easichick for my youngsters once they are off-heat and I move them outside.
You can buy Easichick online here.
BioDri is produced by the same people behind the well know Poultry Shield and Diatom products.
Whilst it isn’t exactly poultry bedding, I include it in this article because it’s beneficial to use alongside your chicken coop bedding. It can absorb moisture (many times its own weight), so it prevents damp bedding. I use a lot of BioDri during the winter when the hens are spending longer in their houses, and sometimes the weather is so wet, they tread a lot more mud into their coops.
Using BioDri helps remove odours and harmful ammonia and helps prevent the spread of diseases, Coccidiosis and salmonella being prime examples. Damp litter in warm weather provides the ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to multiply.
BioDri contains BioVX, which is a DEFRA approved disinfectant. It is environmentally friendly and also harmless to your birds. It is usually used on the floor of the coop before bedding is added to kill off bacteria.
You can buy Biodri online here.
Hopefully, this article will help you to choose the best bedding material for your chicken coop. If you have any experience using any of these products or another that I might have missed, I’d love to hear from you below.
Enjoy your chickens!