What is the best bedding for chickens? We review the different options for you! (Updated July 2024)

Looking for the best bedding for your chickens? Many chicken keepers ask the question ‘what is the best bedding for chickens’ as they want to find a material that is comfortable for their flock as well as something that lasts a reasonable amount of time and is low maintenance.

what is the best bedding for chickens
Bedding helps absorb moisture, odor and chicken waste while providing a soft surface for nesting

What is the best bedding for chickens?

Choosing the right bedding for your chickens is important for their health and comfort. Bedding helps to absorb moisture and odor from chicken waste, and provides a soft surface for them to rest on.

There are many types of bedding materials available, but some are better than others at absorbing moisture and odor. Bedding change out and maintenance will also depend on how many chickens you have and the type of climate you live in i.e wet climates are likely to need changing out more frequently then dry climates.

Here are some of the pros and cons of each type of bedding, as well as a comparison table further on in the article.

Pros and Cons of Bedding Types

Pine shavings:

Pine shavings are great at absorbing moisture and odors

Pine shavings are one of the most popular and affordable bedding materials for chickens.

✅ Very absorbent, easy to use, and keep smells down.

✅ Pine shavings also compost well and can be used as fertilizer for your garden.

❌ However, pine shavings can be dusty and may cause respiratory problems for some chickens.

❌ They also need to be changed frequently to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

Check options for Pine Shavings on Amazon

Hemp:

Hemp is a sustainable and highly absorbent bedding material

Hemp is a natural and eco-friendly bedding material that is becoming more popular among chicken keepers.

✅ Hemp is highly absorbent, odorless, and biodegradable.

✅ It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can prevent infections and diseases in your flock.

✅ Hemp is also low in dust and does not stick to feathers or eggs.

❌ However, hemp can be expensive and hard to find in some areas.

Check options for hemp straw on Amazon

Sand:

Sand is a great easy to clean bedding option and personally one of my favorite choices for my chickens bedding

Sand is another option for chicken bedding that has some advantages and disadvantages.

✅ Sand is easy to clean, as you can just scoop out the droppings with a rake or a shovel.

✅ Sand also helps to keep the coop cool in summer and warm in winter.

✅ It also provides a natural grit for your chickens to digest their food.

❌ However, sand can be heavy and messy, and may cause impaction or crop problems if ingested by your chickens.

❌ Sand also does not compost well and may attract pests.

Check options for All Purpose Sand on Amazon

Recycled paper:

Recycled paper is easy to source and a cheap bedding material

Recycled paper is a cheap and readily available bedding material that can be used for chickens.

✅ Recycled paper is soft, absorbent, and biodegradable.

✅ It also reduces waste and saves trees.

❌ However, recycled paper can be dusty and may contain harmful chemicals or ink that can affect your chickens’ health.

❌ Recycled paper also needs to be changed often as it gets wet and soggy quickly.

Check options for Shredded Paper on Amazon

Grass clippings:

Grass clippings are easy to source and also provide food for your chickens in addition to being a soft bedding. I use my grass clippings for my chickens bedding

Grass clippings are a free and natural bedding material that you can use for your chickens if you have a lawn.

✅ Grass clippings are absorbent, compostable, and provide a fresh smell for your coop.

✅ They also add nutrients to your soil and feed your chickens some greens.

❌ However, grass clippings can be moldy, acidic, or toxic if they are treated with pesticides or herbicides.

❌ They also need to be dried before use and changed frequently to prevent rotting.

Straw:

Straw is cheap and easy to find

Straw is a common bedding material that many people use for their chickens.

✅ Straw is cheap, easy to find, and provides good insulation for your coop.

✅ Straw also makes good nesting material for your hens to lay eggs on.

❌ However, straw can be dusty, moldy, or infested with mites or rodents if not stored properly.

❌ Straw also does not absorb moisture well and can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Check options for straw bedding on Amazon

Hay:

Hay is a soft and comfortable bedding

Hay is similar to straw but it is made from grasses or legumes that are harvested before they seed.

✅ Hay is more nutritious than straw and can provide some extra food for your chickens.

✅ Hay is also softer and more comfortable than straw for your chickens to sleep on.

❌ However, hay can be expensive, dusty, moldy, or infested with pests if not stored properly.

❌ Hay also does not absorb moisture well and can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Check options for Hay bedding on Amazon

Comparison Table of Bedding Types

Here is a comparison table of the different types of bedding:

BeddingCostAbsorbencyOdor ControlDust LevelCompostability
Pine shavings$HighHighHighHigh
Hemp$$$HighHighLowHigh
Sand$$$LowLowLowLow
Recycled paper$HighMediumHighHigh
Grass clippingsFreeMediumMediumLowHigh
Straw$$LowLowHighMedium
Hay$$$LowLowHighMedium

In Conclusion

As you can see, there is no perfect bedding material for chickens. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of each one and decide what works best for you, your home set up and your flock. Personally, at my place we mostly use a combination of grass clippings from mowing our grass and also sand as it is readily available in the area I live. Occasionally I will source some hemp straw for bedding if I do not have grass clippings available.

Interested in the durability of plastic chicken coops? Read our review of Omlet vs Nestera chicken coops.

Chicken Care Shopping List

Are you looking for a shopping list of everything you need when caring for your precious flock? We have put together an easy reference of items for your convenience. 

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AUTHOR

The team at My Chicken Guide are chicken enthusiasts! Our team has over 20 years experience in raising and caring for chickens. Our head writer is a qualified Environmental Scientist with a passion for sharing science based information on chicken care.

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