Keeping the Coop Comfy

Feb 06, 2023

Chick season is here! But before you can bring home your chicks, you must have a safe and comfortable area to raise them. One of the most important decisions to consider when planning for chickens is which type of bedding material to use.
Bedding provides insulation, absorption, odor control, and a comfortable place for chickens to begin laying their eggs as they mature. If the brooder and coop are not kept clean, however, bacteria and parasites thrive. Find more information in the following sections on the pros and cons of the four most common bedding types:
Large-cut shavings are often the best option for bedding while your chicks are still in the brooder. Because they are curious creatures, they will often peck and eat anything that is too small. Shavings are also one of the most absorptive materials and tend to be much easier to clean than other options such as straw. Because of this, they are better at controlling odors as well. However, shavings can become pricey for large coops, and ingestion of this material may cause crop impaction. Please remember pine shavings are unsafe for chickens due to the damaging effects of abietic acid on the respiratory system.
Recycled paper
Paper is a bedding option that is best left for the brooder box if you prefer not to use shavings. Finding enough paper to bed an entire coop even one time will be a challenge. Paper is a smart choice for chicks, though, because it is incredibly soft and dust-free. However, because it is highly absorbent, the paper will need to be changed frequently, and it is not the best for odor control. Ink on print pages can also be toxic to chicks, so avoid using shredded glossy magazine pages or the colored insets you may find in your newspaper.
            It never hurts to go back to the basics. Farmers have been using straw in their coops long before woodchippers and packaged shavings from the Co-op were available. Straw is one of the best insulators for cold temperatures, and chickens tend to love scratching and playing in it. This material is also easy to find in most places, whether through local farmers or your local Co-op.  Straw is also not very absorptive and is therefore not the best choice for easy cleaning or odor control. 
Medium- to coarse-grained sand such as river sand can be used in the coop as well. Sand clumps like cat litter and is easy, albeit time-consuming, to clean. It is considered one of the most sanitary types of bedding because it does not decay or retain moisture, which leads to mold and ammonia buildup. Sand in the coop is also a good source of grit, especially during the winter months when your chickens’ outdoor access is limited. However, in coops that are not completely enclosed, sand can sometimes freeze in the winter and become too hot in the summer if it is exposed to direct sunlight. The right type of sand can also be harder to find than other bedding materials. 
Chicks grow up fast, so having a plan in place for each stage of their life is important. Visit your local Co-op for bedding material and other brooder and coop supplies to keep your backyard flock happy and healthy!
For more content like this, check out the latest issue of The Cooperator.

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