Chicken Bedding 101: Exploring Your Options

multiple hens laying eggs

Let’s talk about what lies beneath your chickens–literally! Did you know the secret to healthier, happier chickens might just be under their feet? Beneath those clucking, pecking beauties is a critical component of their daily lives: their bedding. Choosing the right bedding for your coop isn’t just a matter of housekeeping; it profoundly affects everything from air quality to feather cleanliness, much like selecting the right chicken feed can boost their overall well-being. This guide breaks down the options and gives you the scoop on how to create a comfy, cozy home for your flock.

Why is Choosing the Right Chicken Bedding Important?

The bedding you select for your chicken coop is more than just a floor covering; it is a fundamental component that affects the health and comfort of your chickens. Here’s a closer look at why choosing the right bedding is so important:

Moisture and Odor Control

Quality bedding materials are highly absorbent and crucial in managing moisture levels inside the coop. The right bedding keeps the coop environment dry and pleasant by effectively absorbing moisture and odors. Damp conditions are uncomfortable for chickens and can also breed harmful bacteria and promote mold growth. These conditions can lead to respiratory issues and foot ailments, such as bumblefoot, where the chickens develop painful abscesses on their feet caused by bacteria entering through cuts or abrasions.

Insulation Properties

Bedding is an insulator, retaining heat to keep your chickens warm during the colder months. Materials like straw or wood shavings trap air in their fibers, which helps maintain a warm environment inside the coop. This warmth is essential in regions with harsh winters, as chickens are sensitive to extreme cold, impacting their laying performance and overall health.

Cleaning Time

The right type of bedding can significantly decrease the frequency and effort required to clean the coop. Some materials are easier to scoop and change than others. For instance, sand can be sifted through easily to remove droppings, whereas materials like straw may require complete replacement. Effective bedding reduces labor and keeps the environment sanitary with less effort.

Pests and Insect Management

A crucial aspect of bedding is its ability to deter pests and insects. Some bedding materials, like cedar shavings, are naturally repellent to certain pests due to their aromatic oils. Maintaining a coop free from pests is vital, as insects can cause stress and transmit diseases to the flock.


Many types of bedding can be composted and reused, adding a layer of sustainability to your poultry-keeping practices. Composting used bedding turns it into a nutrient-rich resource for your garden, reducing waste and closing the loop in your farming ecosystem. This practice benefits your soil and reduces the environmental footprint of maintaining your coop.

With these points in mind, selecting the appropriate bedding becomes a decision that significantly impacts the well-being of your chickens and the ease of managing your coop. So, let’s explore the different bedding options to find out which might be the best for your flock!

Chicken Bedding Options

When choosing bedding for your chicken coop, there are several options, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Straw and Hay

Straw and hay are traditional bedding materials that provide excellent insulation, keeping your coop warm during colder months. They’re readily available and generally inexpensive, making them a popular choice for many poultry owners.

However, straw and hay can attract pests like mites and are prone to mold if they become damp. These issues can lead to respiratory problems in chickens, requiring diligent maintenance to keep the coop healthy and safe.

To prevent these issues, it’s important to regularly check and replace the bedding to keep it dry and pest-free. This practice might involve more frequent changes during wet seasons or in more humid climates. Additionally, ensuring proper ventilation within the coop can help mitigate the risk of mildew and mold buildup.

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings are highly absorbent, which helps control moisture and odors in the chicken coop. They are also soft, making them comfortable for chickens to rest on and reducing the risk of bumblefoot, a common foot injury.

On the downside, some types of wood shavings, like pine, can be dusty and release aromatic oils that may irritate the respiratory tract of chickens. Depending on your local availability, they can also be more expensive than other bedding options.

Regular stirring and occasional replacement of the bedding will be necessary to manage dust and maintain freshness. It’s also advisable to choose larger flake sizes, as they tend to be less dusty and maintain good absorbency.


Sand is excellent for cleanliness, as it sifts easily, allowing for quick removal of droppings, and it doesn’t retain moisture, which helps keep the coop dry and hygienic. It also provides a natural way for chickens to bathe and manage their own feather and skin care.

However, sand provides little to no insulation, which can be a problem in colder climates. It is also heavy and cumbersome to replace, requiring significant labor to clean and maintain effectively.

Regular raking and occasional topping up will be needed to ensure the sand remains clean and waste-free. In colder regions, supplementing sand with a layer of straw may provide additional warmth during winter months.

Recycled Paper

Recycled paper is an eco-friendly bedding choice that is often dust-free, making it good for both the chickens and their keepers. It’s also highly absorbent and can be easily composted after use, reducing waste.

This option can be more expensive than other bedding, and it might not be as readily available everywhere. Recycled paper can also become soggy if not changed regularly, potentially leading to issues with dampness in the coop.

Frequent monitoring and replacement are essential to prevent buildup of moisture. It’s also important to layer the paper bedding thickly to enhance its absorbency and ensure a dry environment for the chickens.

Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding is durable and has a high absorbency rate, which can help keep the coop cleaner for more extended periods. It also produces very little dust, which is beneficial for the respiratory health of your chickens.

Hemp can be one of the more expensive bedding options and might not be available in all regions as easily as other materials. It’s also denser, which means it might require more effort to handle and change out.

Hemp bedding will need less frequent changes than lighter materials but should be monitored for compaction and wet spots, which must be removed promptly to maintain effectiveness. Additionally, turning over the hemp bedding regularly can help prevent the development of damp spots and maintain its freshness for a longer period.

What is the Best Bedding for Chickens?

Choosing the best bedding for your chickens depends on several factors, including your local climate, your budget, the size of your coop, and how much time you can dedicate to coop maintenance. Here are some general tips to help you make the best choice:

  • Consider your climate: If you live in a colder area, choose bedding like straw or wood shavings that provide good insulation.
  • Think about maintenance: If you prefer a low-maintenance option, sand might be a good choice due to its easy cleaning.
  • Budget wisely: Determine how much you are willing to spend as some options, like hemp bedding, while excellent, can be costly.

Ultimately, many chicken keepers find that a combination of materials works best. For instance, using straw for warmth in the winter and switching to sand or wood shavings in the summer for better moisture control and ease of cleaning might be the perfect combination.

Keep in mind that every flock is different, and sometimes, what works for one set of chickens might not work for another. Don’t hesitate to experiment with varying types of bedding or combinations thereof. Observe how your chickens respond to different materials and not any changes in their health or behavior. For example, if you notice your chickens are sneezing more frequently with a specific type of bedding, it might be too dusty for them, and a switch may be necessary.

Remember, the health and happiness of your chickens start from the ground up, literally! So, take the time to choose a bedding that suits both your needs and those of your feathered friends. By doing so, you’ll maintain a cleaner and more efficient coop and ensure that your chickens are healthy, happy, and productive.

Just as the right bedding is crucial for your chicken’s environment, selecting the right feed is essential for their nutrition and well-being. High-quality feed complements good bedding by promoting optimal health and egg production. To find the best feed tailored to your chickens’ specific needs, visit Kalmbach Feeds. Discover our range of premium poultry products today and give your chickens the complete care they deserve.