Chicken coop and nest box bedding

Two hens in a nest with shavings as bedding.

Table of Contents

What is chicken bedding?

Chicken bedding is the material you use in your coop to cover the floor and the nesting boxes to make your birds comfortable and to help prevent injury and broken eggs. Most keepers use an bedding like wood shavings, straw or sand to cover the floor and line the nest boxes.

Below: Some young chickens with a few inches of wood shavings as bedding.

What materials can you use for bedding?

The bedding you choose for your hen house will often depends on your circumstances and what is available in your location.

List of chicken bedding materials:

  1. Wood shavings.
  2. Sand.
  3. Specialist bedding like easichick.
  4. Hardwood chippings.
  5. Straw.
  6. Hay.
  7. Paper shredding.

What is the best bedding for chickens?

My choice for the best bedding for chickens are:

  1. Sand. Clean, dry builders sand with different sized grains.
  2. Dust extracted wood shavings.
  3. Easichick or hemp fibre - store bought.

The cost to you may well be very different.

What is the cheapest chickens bedding?

The majority of my chicken coops use sand on the floor which makes it the cheapest for me. It works out to £4.66 a month or around $7 a month. Add a few pence for the straw in the nest boxes.

My second cheapest option in generic brand wood shavings. There is no reason you could not use dry hardwood chippings.

How much bedding does a chicken need?

Chickens require bedding to be at least 4 inches deep in the nest boxes and 2 inches deep across the floor of the coop.

All bedding and nest box bedding should be treated with DE or diatomaceous earth on a regular basis.

What is the best bedding for chickens?

The standard in almost every chickens coop I see is wood shavings on the floor and straw or hay in the nest box.

I am a complete convert to sand as bedding in the coop. The stuff I use I buy as sharp sand from my builders merchant for £2.33 a 25 kg bag and it consists of a mix of sizes from grains to around 4 mm.

Sand has the benefit of being easy to use and dispose off as well as being fireproof and helping to provide grit for your chickens. I always used a fine sand to stop poop sticking to the droppings boards and things went on from there.

What do you put in a chicken coop for bedding really depends on your budget and what your chickens are used to or prefer.

Hay VS Straw:

Keepers use the terms "hay" and "straw" almost interchangeably these days but they are very different products.

Straw is the left over stems of plants that have been harvested for another crop, the most common examples of which are wheat and barley straw whereas Hay is a crop in it's own right that is grown and dried for storage, to be used as animal fodder.

Hay is a mixture of dried grasses or vetch that is grown specially for it's nutritional content and is most often used for feeding ruminant animals like cows during winter months.

Straw is the left over stems of other grains that are harvested and is mostly used as bedding as it has little nutritional content.

Is straw and hay OK for chicken bedding?

They are both fine but they have their disadvantages.

If chickens eat straw or hay, which they do sometimes it may give them impacted crops. This is the main reason chicken keepers chooses wood chippings.

The hollow stems of dried grasses and straw can hold parasites and bring all sorts of nasties into your back garden.

It can also be more difficult to clean chicken poop of straw and hay.

Can you use hemp fibre for chicken bedding?

The hemp bedding is made from the shredded stalk of specially grown cannabis plants and is rumoured to works as a natural pesticide. It is absorbent, organic, odourless, which means your coops will stay clean for longer.

Below: This little Japanese bantam is on hemp bedding.

 What do you do with dirty chicken bedding?

I use either the deep litter method method or sand in my chickens coops so i compost my dirty chicken bedding for 12 months before I use it on my garden. 

Ways to get rid of used chicken bedding include:

  • Composting.
  • Burying it in the garden.
  • Burning if you use shavings, hay or straw.
  • Disposal in the waste collection.

How often should a chicken coop be cleaned?

Chicken coop cleaning frequency depends on your setup but you should be cleaning your hen house at least once a week. For a full chicken coop cleaning regimen and coop hygiene guide.

Coop cleaning depends on how many chickens you have as well as the size of your coop and if you allow free ranging. I use poop boards which are cleaned every week and my chickens free range so I only clean my coop every month.

If it is my deep litter coops, I only clean them once a year in spring when the weather warms up, but they do get their droppings boards cleaned every week as well as getting their bedding topped up weekly.

How often should chicken bedding be replaced?

Chicken bedding on the coop floor needs to be changed every two to four weeks depending on how many chickens you have and how much time they spend inside the coop.

Free range chickens in the height of summer are rarely inside the coop but confined hen in the middle of winter may spend half the day inside and will make considerably more mess in the hen house.

Bedding in the nest boxes tends to last a month or two as long as it hasn't been soiled with chicken poop. In the winter months you may well be able to leave it for three or four months before it needs to be replaced.

What is deep bedding for chickens?

The deep litter bedding method for chickens involves allowing the bedding to build up in the bottom of the coop. It saves cleaning time and helps keep chickens warm. For a full article, including a how to use the deep litter method take a look here.