15 Chicken Coop Bedding Options: Which Is The Best Chicken Coop Bedding For You?
While some chicken bedding options require frequent changing, there are bedding materials that can last up to six months. There’s even one chicken coop bedding that needs changing only twice a year!
Here are 15 chicken bedding options to keep your chickens comfy and your nose happy.
- 1. Cedar Shavings
- 2. Excelsior Fiber
- 3. Grass Clippings
- 4. Hay
- 5. Hemp
- 6. Mulch
- 7. Pine Needles
- 8. Pine Shavings
- 9. Recycled Paper (Old newspaper)
- 10. Rocks
- 11. Sand
- 12. Sawdust
- 13. Shredded Cardboard
- 14. Shredded Dried Leaves
- 15. Straw
1. Cedar Shavings
Let’s just get this out of the way. Cedar shavings for chickens are debatable (and controversial) as a bedding option. Some love it because it’s great at neutralizing smells. Plus, it’s a natural bug and snake repellant (1). But the thing that makes cedar smell so good is also the thing that irritates the lungs of chickens.
Imagine you’re trapped in an empty perfume vat. The smell is overwhelming when you’re too close to it.
The Solution? Only use this if your chicken coop is very well-ventilated. We are talking fewer solid walls, more screens type of coop. And do you know what? The top rated chicken coops all have plenty of ventilation. Ventilation is life. So cedar shaving is fine as long as you have a well ventilated coop.
- eliminates odors well
- bug and snake repellant
- easily available
- can cause respiratory issues with long exposure
2. Excelsior Fiber
It’s a cool name, huh? It gets better. Excelsior fiber is one of the easiest animal bedding options to use because they come in pads. Think of it as a fibrous sponge, more like a giant loofah. Any moisture just seeps through. You don’t have to worry about dust with this chicken bedding. Plus, it’s soft and easy on the chicken’s feet. But, it’s an ultra-luxury animal bedding. The price of a 10 pack can cost $36 or more!
- easy to clean
- zero dust
- one of the most expensive chicken bedding options
3. Grass Clippings
A freshly mowed lawn smells great, but what do you do with the pile of cut grass? You can use it as coop bedding for any chicken coop design. Just make sure you didn’t use any pesticides on it to keep your hens safe. Grass is great at absorbing moisture, but fresh grass degrades fast. You see how easily they break when you step on them in the garden. Now think about all the stomping around your chickens will be doing. You’ll have to change it out more often, but hey, at least it’s free. (P.S. Need a new lawnmower? Check out our reel lawnmower reviews.)
- easily available (you can even get it for free)
- smells nice
- rots easily
- needs frequent changes
The dried up, more fibrous cousins of grass. If you have a farm or ranch, chances are you have this stored in bales for horses. You can also use this as chicken bedding. It doesn’t soil as fast as fresh grass, so you don’t need to change it out as often. Plus, they’re food-grade. There’s no question about it not being safe for chickens. And the last plus is they cover up the poop smell pretty well.
- readily available
- highly absorbent
- chickens can eat it
- gets stinkier as it starts to rot
- harbors spores if left soiled too long
You probably already heard of hemp used for many things like clothing and ropes. But it has simpler uses like bedding for a chicken coop. This 100% organic plant fiber is super absorbent and keeps the coop smelling fresh longer. Perfect for constantly pooping chickens.
Hemp bedding used to be a budget-friendly option, but since the internet has hyped it, its price tag has become somewhat unreasonable amongst chicken keepers.
- longer odor neutralizing
- less frequent bedding changes
- a bit expensive
Mulch is basically wood chips, often the bark part of the wood. It’s readily available in your local tractor supply and feed stores. It’s usually used for landscaping to help drain water, making it a good chicken bedding material for deep bedding (2).
“The chickens break down the bedding material, all the veg scraps you give them, and their own manure, through their constant scratching. Over time, the floor of the coop becomes a deep soft deposit of compost.”
The compost generates heat that can warm your chickens when it gets too cold outside. You can also use the poopy mulch as fertilizer for your garden soil when you change it out. Weeds won’t grow, but your plants definitely will. It’s a 3-for-1 homestead deal!
- highly absorbent
- adds floor insulation
- makes good fertilizer
- prone to mold growth
- some mulch mixes are toxic to chickens
7. Pine Needles
If you live in Pine country, there’s a whole world of free bedding for chickens. Dried pine needles are a great chicken coop addition. They smell good and drain moisture well. The keyword here is DRY, people. Fresh pine needles may smell better, but just like fresh grass, they won’t last as long.
Oh, and be sure you get the pine needles of the non-toxic pines so everyone is safe (3).
- can be easy to source depending on your location
- smells good
- easy to clean
- some varieties are toxic to chickens
8. Pine Shavings
Aren’t pine trees just so useful? You can use pretty much any part of the tree for your homestead. You can build a coop with the wood, use needles for bedding, and even pine shavings for hens. They work the same way as cedar shavings. They smell good and neutralize odors.
Pine shavings are easy to source from your local supply store, or you can make them yourself – you can do it by hand using a wooden jack. All you have to do is gently glide the jack along the grain of the pine wood block you’re shaving. You can make it as long or short as you want.
The other way is by using a power planer. It’s faster but also messier because the shavings blow out of a tube as it’s shaved. For this, you’ll need protective gear like goggles and a mask. The shavings produced here are shorter than what you’d get from a wooden planer.
Pine is more popular than cedar because it won’t cause health issues for chickens. Pine shavings are usually kiln-dried to take away all the natural moisture (4). This way, they can absorb all the bad moisture from your chickens’ business.
- eliminates odor
- gives good insulation
- treated wood source is toxic
- low-quality shavings are dusty
9. Recycled Paper (Old newspaper)
Here’s another chicken bedding option that you already have. Put that pile of old newspapers sitting in the corner to good use. Shred them up and put them in your chicken coop. The paper absorbs wetness well. It’s not toxic, so no one’s getting sick here. Plus, it’s pretty much free at this point.
The only downside is that it sticks, especially if you use it for nest boxes. Freshly laid eggs have a slimy coating on them so that the paper will stick. You might even get some on the hen’s butts. It’s not dangerous, just a little inconvenient and unhygienic.
- easily available
- you can get it for free
- easy to set up
- good absorption
- sticks to surfaces as it dries
- needs frequent changing
Needless to say, rocks only work as a ground-level chicken coop floor material. Now I know you’re thinking, “Rocks, that sounds uncomfortable.” Well, don’t use the sharp ones. Choose smooth river rocks or pebbles for the chicken coop.
Rock beddings don’t need to be changed. You don’t even have to move them. Just to hose them down, and you’re good to go.
It’s super low maintenance and a free chicken bedding option. But obviously, it’s not good for a nesting box.
- easy to clean
- takes time to collect the right size and smooth finish
- can get hot if exposed to the sun
Your feline friends use sand as kitty litter, and so can your chickens. Sand makes great chicken litter too. It absorbs chicken feces moisture and dries out the solid droppings. Since sand is gentle on the feet, it’s a great coop bedding if you have young chicks. Plus, it doubles as dust baths!
The best part is sand can last six months without changing, especially if you use it as a deep litter. Again, just like rocks, it’s best to use sand for ground-level chicken coops. Make sure to reinforce your elevated chicken coop floor so that it can handle the weight. Sand also doubles as dust baths!
Using sand as a coop bedding is convenient to change. Just use a snow shovel and scoop out the clumps of feces. You can also do spot cleaning every day – just like you would when cleaning your cat’s litter box.
- excellent absorption
- dries out solid waste
- lasts long between bedding changes
Sawdust is another cheap chicken bedding option. But it has the word dust in it, which is already a downside. Don’t use this if your hens stay in the coop most of the time. All that scratching around just circulates the dust. However, it does get less dusty as it absorbs waste. If it gets too wet, then bugs can start laying on them. So just check on it once in a while to see if it needs changing.
- extremely dusty
- can cause respiratory infection and eye irritation
13. Shredded Cardboard
This chicken bedding is like the newspaper option, but with less sticking. The cardboard absorbs more moisture and is already layered. That means it will do its job longer. It’s also free. Just ask some from your local grocery stores or warehouses.
Since it’s organic, you can chuck it in your compost pit for future fertilizing.
- helps reduce trash
- cheap or even free
- doesn’t help much with odors
- if printed, inks can be toxic
14. Shredded Dried Leaves
Autumn brings about a lot of good things. Pumpkins, cool weather, and free bedding. Yup, all those dried falling leaves make for good DIY natural bedding. Chickens love to scratch leaves anyway.
So shred the leaves and toss them into your chicken coop. It will keep them happy, their poop managed, and your yard leaf-free! Oh, and as they scratch and poop, they’re turning those leaves into instant fertilizer. So you can just toss the soiled leaves into your garden patches.
- good for composting
- gives a more natural environment
- zero costs
- seasonally available
- rots faster
- not much odor control
- harbors bugs
The cheaper version of hay, straw bedding is also a popular choice. Some varieties are more absorbent than others and don’t break down as fast (5). Oat straw is your best option for lasting longer and absorbing more moisture. Since straw can be too long and hard to manage for a small coop, you can use chopped straw bedding instead.
Just be sure to check how soiled your straw bedding gets. Mold spores can start to form and cause respiratory infections in your chickens. Also, since straw is harvested after the plants are dead, they contain higher ammonia levels. So it adds to the stink when it’s mixed with chicken waste. Best to use this for well-ventilated coops.
- easy to find
- some kinds are not very absorbent
- prone to mold growth
- increases odor if not changed often
The best bedding for chickens is the non-toxic, all-natural, and very absorbent kind. There are a lot of beddings available. But you should also consider what is the most readily available to you. Sometimes, you don’t even need to buy beddings. Dried leaves and recycled paper are some options that you can find in your backyard or home.
Chickens don’t always need bedding for their chicken coop. Some cases where you don’t need bedding are when you keep hens in a chicken tractor or if you have wire flooring.
If you have a solid floor or keep laying hens, then yes, you need beddings. Choose from the many chicken coop bedding options we listed. From recycled paper to shavings bedding, there’s one perfect for you.
Chickens like to sleep on roosts that are comfortable for their feet. Strong branches with soft bark work well. They don’t normally sleep on the ground unless they’re broody.
Although, it’s different for young chickens transitioning from brooder box to coop. They’re not used to roosting yet, so sometimes they like to sleep in the comfy nesting boxes. Don’t let them do this because you’ll end up with dirty eggs.
You should change chicken bedding every two days. However, it depends on the kind of bedding and your method of bedding.
The deep litter method requires less frequent bedding changes. You start with a thick layer of bedding, and then, instead of replacing it, you keep adding bedding. Eventually, the bottom layer turns into compost.
The ground of your chicken run doesn’t always need bedding. If your run is on dirt, then your chickens’ feet will already be happy. You only need bedding for your chicken run if your coop is in a water-logged area or on hard cement. You need bedding that will drain the water and keep your hens’ feet comfy.
- 4 Ways To Use Cedar Wood Shavings. Retrieved from: https://www.palmerfeed.com/blog/4-ways-to-use-cedar-wood-shavings
- Deep Bedding for Chickens. Retrieved from: https://www.rootsimple.com/2011/04/deep-bedding-for-chickens/
- Which Pine Trees Are Poisonous. Retrieved from: https://www.hunker.com/13428592/which-pine-trees-are-poisonous
- Premium Pine Shavings. Retrieved from: https://naturesearth.com/equine-pine-shaving/
- Absorbency of Alternative Livestock Bedding Sources. Retrieved from: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1190&context=ans_air
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.