Wood Chips / Shavings VS. Straw

“I have recently got 3 chickens for the back garden and the man I bought them from said to use bark chips for the floor of the run, and wood shavings for inside their house. He actually advised against straw as he said it’s not absorbent and would not be very pleasant for the chickens. Now I’m confused! Can you help me please? Thanks very much.” ~ Jill in Brigg, England

Hi Jill.

I hope I can clear up the confusion for you.

I’m going to guess why the gentleman suggested the things he did. I believe he suggested shavings for inside the coop because they would be absorbent.

I’m not sure why he felt bark chips would be best for outside, other than to allow for drainage if you have a lot of rain. An additional advantage in bark chips would be that they provide a breeding ground for insects, a protein source for the chickens.

For us, bark is not an option.

We live in an area where there are scorpions and they love to hide in bark chips. Bark is just asking for scorpion problems around here.

This is an important point; the materials best suited to your area may be different than the materials best suited to my area. If you live in an area with a lot of rain, drainage is important. If you live in an area that gets very cold, a floor covering that provides some insulation will be necessary. Use common sense based upon your particular circumstances.

Also, materials that are indigenous to your area will be cheaper. If you live in the middle of rolling plains, wood products will be more expensive.

In regard to using straw, it works well for us because we lay down a shallow layer and remove and replenish it all regularly. Also, it’s very cheap.

Remember though that straw should never be used as flooring material for brooding because it is slippery and can cause spraddle legs in newly hatched chicks.

Again, use what works best for you. Whatever you use, do not allow it to get moldy because mold will cause a serious respiratory poultry disease.

Finally, it is very important that you never use sawdust around your chickens; it’s too hard on their respiratory system. Also just as important, do not use oak shavings because they are toxic.

Thanks again, Jill. I hope this has cleared things up.