TIPS FOR CHOOSING CHICKEN COOP BEDDING
BY BENJAMIN ROUSSEY
Your choice of chicken coop bedding will play an important role in keeping your chicken happy and healthy. Bedding is the coop floor where hens spend considerable time, and they use the area as their toilet as well. Hence, the coop bedding should be soft for walking, and should be able to absorb moisture and prevent odor buildup.
Unhygienic and dirty bedding will become a breeding ground for parasites, which can cause various health problems for your chickens. The bedding material should allow droppings to dry quickly, as baby chicks tend to eat poop. If the bedding is too rough, it will damage the feet of your chicken. Soft bedding will also prevent the eggs from cracking when they are being laid.
Many people choose paper sheets or newspaper as a bedding material, which is a terrible idea. Paper does not have the required absorbent property, and it tends to become slippery with the droppings. Such a slippery surface can cause serious injuries like splayed leg in your chickens. This injury will disfigure your chicken’s leg, and other chickens are known to peck at the affected area, which could lead to a fatality. Secondly, mold will start forming on wet paper, which is quite harmful for chicks.
Some people like to use straw or hay as a bedding material, which is better than paper, but still not a good option. Hay can also turn moldy, and it can harbor mites, which can lead to various health problems in your chickens. Wooden shavings are another option preferred by many people. However, you should avoid using shaving of cedar wood, as its aroma is a major irritant for younger chickens. The best option would be pine wood shavings, as they are quite reasonably priced. However, you will need to change shavings often, and many chickens tend to kick large portions out of the coop.
Sand is considered the best material for chicken coop bedding, as it will not retain moisture, and droppings dry off fast. Sand is also less oppressive in summer season compared to wooden shavings, as sand does not retain much heat. Secondly, sand, due to its gritty nature, acts as an exfoliating substance for removing dead skin and keeping the feet of your chicken clean. However, sand is not fully free of all negatives. Sand will make the environment a bit dusty, even though hens enjoy the dust baths. It is a bit strenuous to maintain, as it is heavy and will require daily scooping.
According to many experts, the sand used in play sandboxes and mortar sand are the best types of sand for chicken coop bedding. The main advantage of sand is that it stays more dry compared to any other material, as it absorbs heat and quickly evaporates moisture. Due to that, sand will have much lesser microbes and parasites, which is healthy for your chickens, especially the chicks. Secondly, even when sand gets into the drinker, it will sink to the bottom of the vessel and your chickens are not discouraged from drinking the water.