The pros and cons of chicken coop furnishings

by Kenny Coogan

With so many chicken coop bedding options out there, it can be overwhelming. I called Marissa Byrom, Director of Communications and General Store Manager at Shell Feed & Garden Supply, to find out.
more. Byrum has a lot of great ideas about the financials and sustainability behind chicken coop bedding and which species have the highest potential for pathogen problems.

The best chicken shavings

“The most common type of bedding sold for chickens is pine bedding, because it’s cheap, relatively absorbent, and doesn’t contain much
Effects on chickens,” Byrom explains. “A lot of what is better for chickens or
The safest one depends on how often you clean. Pine bedding can be controversial,
Depending on what kind of research you’re reading. Pine bed dust can be toxic, and of course, as with any shavings, if you leave it uncleaned for too long, it will
Breed mold and bacteria and retain ammonia. A lot of cleaning is always needed.”

“Pine and any kind of hardwood can cause a respiratory problem,” Byrom says. “If the chicken is locked in a place where the sawdust has been laid and the door is closed immediately, they will breathe in and this can cause respiratory problems.” Just because pine bedding is the most
Selling normal bedding, doesn’t mean it’s the best.

“We know that, even for humans, if you breathe rice in for a long time
Time, you can get nose and throat irritation — or at least I do — so it’s best
To avoid dust particles.

The compressibility of straw and hay makes it a good value for use as poultry bedding. Photo by Kenny Coogan.

Straw vs straw

The second most common bedding material sold for chicken coops is hay
And straw, according to Byrom. “It’s cheap and very soft, so the chickens are like that. You shouldn’t put hay on the chicks in brooders, because they can eat
He. She. Same with pine sawdust. Young children shouldn’t eat too much of it, because if they did eat it, it could be toxic.”

Marisa Byrom with Red the Rooster. Photography by Marisa Byrum.

While hay and straw are good at absorbing moisture, they are bad at releasing that moisture, which means frequent cleaning to avoid ammonia buildup.

Byrum says chopped straw is better than hay for multiple reasons.
“Both contain pathogens, but chopped straw has a lower dust content and is more absorbent. During bale compaction, a lot of dust can be absorbed.”

Newspapers and cartoons

“You get a lot of product for your money because it’s compact,” Byrom adds. “On the flip side, you have to clean it up a lot—six of one, half a dozen of the other—I hate using egg puns!”

For young chicks, Byrum recommends using newspaper. Most newspapers are printed with vegetable inks. Don’t use glossy paper, just use plain paper
paper. I recommend using flat newspaper on the bottom and then
Add shredded paper on top so the chicken can get some traction.
In our incubators, we had grids that let waste pass through
newspaper, but most people use incubators made from boxes or handbags.
I don’t recommend any kind of mattress that’s too thick, or else you
You will lose your chicks in it! She’s kidding.

“PitMoss Roost is pre-cut shredded paper and is very easy to clean,” Byrum says. “You just pick up the clump where the waste is, and you replace it. It’s more expensive than some traditional bedding. Both newspaper and PittMoss compost very easily.”

On the PittMoss website, they claim that it lasts four times longer than pine sawdust and significantly reduces odor and promotes bird health. the
The composition of the material is similar to a hamster mattress.

Cardboard bedding bags and sacks, Photo by Amy K. Fewell.

While Byrum didn’t see it locally for sale, she did see some recommendations for a cardboard mattress. Basically cardboard cutouts
Small squares of cardboard are far from making boxes and things like that. There is practically no dust, and the chickens do not eat it. Although this is not common, it works well! “

Hemp and structure

Hemp is another alternative to chicken bedding. However, according to Byrom, it is not as readily available and is more expensive. The positive is that you don’t need to use a lot.

“Hemp has low levels of mold, and you can use it as a deep litter. It doesn’t tend to keep the ammonia for too long if you have a proper turnover. Bedding hemp is the leftover stems and dried leaves; the top of the plant is used by the manufacturer for clothing or paper products. It looks kind of Like straw. It’s definitely one of the best options. You can use it in nesting boxes or in the barn shed.”

Rice husks, peanut shells, and corn cobs are not ideal for chicken bedding. It’s not absorbent, and since it’s organic, you have to keep it on top of it and make sure the area is clean. “The high levels of mold and high ammonia retention make them not the best,” Byrum explains. “Unless you just hit a really great deal, I’d stick with the other options.”

Sawdust is another cheap and readily available option. “If people are grinding treated lumber, you certainly don’t want that. But if it’s only who
Processing raw pine trees, it is almost like pine shavings but obviously smaller and more dusty. Sawdust works well and is very absorbent and lightweight. It insulates, but again dust and the potential for mold are also present, says Byrom. The biggest cause of death in chickens in general is respiratory problems whether it is bird flu or any number of them
Diseases of Chicken Most respiratory problems occur in the faces of chickens, so you don’t want to make up the air they breathe. Don’t irritate your respiratory system by choosing the wrong type of chicken bedding.”

“For nesting boxes, you could really use any of the items we mentioned. Straw, shredded hay, and paper products including PittMoss will work to insulate the barn,” says Byrom.

When to compost

“On runs and runs, you can use PittMoss in a deep trash fashion,” Byrum notes. “It will compost in place, which is great, and you don’t have to worry about it being too messy. If you need to get rid of everything and replace everything—which I recommend doing every three months—it can go.”
directly to the compost; You don’t have to worry about composting beforehand, since it’s just paper. “

Pine shavings are cheap, absorbent, and relatively safe for poultry. Photo by Kenny Coogan.

If you’re composting newspaper, Byrum recommends adding some green material to make it compost faster.

“For typical sawdust, it can take up to a year to fully compost. Some people can do it faster, if they compost hotter, but it still takes a little more effort.”

Old, dirty hay and straw are not suitable for compost, Byrom says. “There’s not much point in composting it because mold can withstand a wide range of temperatures. To me, it’s very weak in structure, unless you’re going to keep it separate from other composts—it takes a long time.”

Sand in the chicken race

“Medium sand is probably the best type of bedding for a coop area, because it doesn’t contain liquids, doesn’t harbor pathogens like mold, and is easy to clean,” Byrum says. Many people try to use play sand, but there is a problem with smaller grain silicate. Pulmonary silicosis is a disease that chickens can catch from playing sand, caused by small particles that enter the lungs.”

Medium grade sand isn’t the cheapest, but once you put it on the ground it will be there for a while. You’ll save money in the long run because you’re not
Having to replace it often. The sand also regulates the temperature all year round.

Choosing the right barn and running products depends on where you live,
What you can spend it on, and how you’ll deal with it when it gets dirty. Fortunately, there is
Lots of options.

Kenny Coogan He is a national food, farm and flower columnist. It is also part of Mother Earth news and friends Podcast Team. He has a master’s degree
degree in Global Sustainability and leads workshops on owning chickens, vegetable gardening, animal training, and corporate team building.
his new book, Florida carnivorous plantsAvailable at

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