Evaluation of the different types of chicken coop bedding and which is best for nesting based on price, durability, comfort, and safety for egg-laying hens.
Keeping egg-laying chickens is a hot lifestyle trend. While the cultural phenomenon was already in process, emerging food inflation and sparse supermarket shelves are fueling an even faster resurgence!
While this is a wonderful trend, the learning curve is fairly steep, as I realized when I started out with my first three hens a decade ago!
Why Coop Bedding is Important
One of the first decisions to make is what type of nesting material to use for the coop.
Bedding is important to provide the hens with a clean, comfortable and safe place to lay their eggs each day.
It also gives them a source of warmth and insulation on cold winter nights.
I’ve used many types of materials for bedding over the years, and I definitely have my opinions about it!
You can either use the material to line nesting boxes individually or lay it across the floor of the raised bedding area of the coop.
Here are the various types of bedding I would recommend considering and which is my favorite based on price, durability, comfort, and safety for your girls.
Nesting pads (such as these) are a popular choice for newbie hen keepers. They are durable, washable, and fairly inexpensive.
However, they are made with synthetic materials, and so are not a good choice for that reason alone, in my opinion.
The hens don’t like them much either from what I’ve observed in my own little flock of birds. They seem to find them uncomfortable especially in the summer when the artificial materials trap too much heat.
Rating: 1 out of 5
I would suggest skipping this type of bedding unless you simply have no other option.
Another popular choice for chicken nesting material is wood shavings. At first, they seem to be a logical choice because this is an excellent material to line a box filled with growing chicks.
A large bag of compacted wood shavings is inexpensive and lasts for a long time. However, I have found that once the hens are old enough to lay eggs, they don’t seem to like them much.
My guess is that the strong pine odor is off-putting in the small, confined coop space.
If the egg-laying portion of your coop is chicken wire, like mine is, the chips tend to fall through the holes too. You can solve this problem by buying the wood shavings pressed into laying mats, but this makes them much more expensive.
Rating: 2 out of 5
While I always have a bag of pine shavings in my garage as it is very good to use as brown material for a compost pile, I do not use them in the chicken coop.
Hay is another popular choice to line the egg-laying portion of your coop.
Note that hay is not to be confused with straw. They may seem similar, but they are actually quite different. (1)
Straw is best avoided for chicken litter as well as bedding material. It can encourage respiratory problems in chickens. (2)
Chickens seem to enjoy hay for nesting and you can get it very cheaply (less than $10 for a large block at my local feed store).
Hay is not my top choice because it is messy and dusty to store in the garage. If you have a barn, then it might make more sense to keep it on hand.
Rating: 3 out of 5
While chickens enjoy nesting in hay and it is affordable and safe to use as bedding, in my experience, the choices below are even better.
Coconut Fiber (Coco Coir)
One type of chicken nesting material that is not frequently considered is natural coconut fiber.
My chickens love it!
The only drawback is that it isn’t washable and the chickens tend to tear it up fairly quickly as they snuggle into it to lay their eggs.
So, you have to buy it often and it isn’t that cheap. With my small flock of birds, I can go through a 10-pack of coconut fiber mats in about a month.
You can also find it in rolls for a bit less money, but you will need to cut it to size to fit inside your nesting boxes.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Coco coir mats are wonderful for chicken bedding, and the chickens enjoy laying on them. However, they aren’t cheap, and they need to be replaced often.
Spanish moss is BY FAR my favorite material to use for chicken coop bedding.
It is free, natural, durable, and safe for the hens to lay on. It is also their favorite bedding to snuggle into.
In my area of the country, Spanish moss is literally everywhere hanging off of trees. Simply gather some in a local park and put it in your garage in an open bin to use as needed.
We have a lot of trees in our neighborhood, so it is plentiful and everywhere to gather year-round as needed.
Some people say that Spanish moss contains insects, but I have not found this to be the case. Even if it did, the chickens would happily eat them, so I don’t see this as a concern.
I’ve used Spanish moss for a long time and never had issues whatsoever with it.
Rating: 5 out of 5
If you live in a part of the world where moss hangs off the trees and can be easily gathered, try it as chicken coop bedding. I hope your hens love it as much as mine do!
I have Masonry sand in my chicken house. I screwed a litter scoop to a rake handle and use a small garden rake to rake up the poop under the perch. My hen house doesn’t smell. The girls use the sand as a dust bath and I have different foods in the hen house for their convenience and if it’s raining I don’t have to throw their scratch outside in the mud. It takes me 7 min to feed and pick poop every day.
Liliana Verd Rodriguez
We use IMOs made from Korean natural farming and once established we never have to change the bedding. Maybe it’ll take 1 year or so and we just keep adding IMO to a few more problem corners and then it’s done.
We learned to make it but our local ACE sells bags of it now.
Don’t forget to mention Hemp bedding. The stuff is really great!
I was going to say the same thing re hemp; sadly i am sure it’s still illegal in some states, and was hard to find out here in SoCal even.. still, our girls seem very comfy vs pine, its far more absorbent, and composts very well… but, i can’t beat the whole “pull from neighborhood trees for free”… i would totally be doing that if Spanish moss grew around us.
Sarah Pope MGA
I’m glad you mentioned hemp. I haven’t seen it anywhere where I live though for some reason.
Then again, I haven’t looked very hard since I am so happy with the Spanish moss which I’ve been using for quite some time.
We use hemp bedding too, and love it! We only have to change it every two years. Very clean and sanitary.
Sarah Pope MGA
How much is it and where do you order it?