How Do You Choose The Right Type Of Chicken Bedding?

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“I’m starting a small backyard chicken coop and I’m confused about what type of bedding to use. There are so many options out there! Can you help me understand how to choose the right bedding for my chickens? I want to make sure they’re comfortable and healthy.” Thanks a bunch, Sandra, Edmonton, Canada.

How to Choose the Right Type of Chicken Bedding

Hey Sandra! It’s great to hear you’re getting into backyard chicken keeping. Choosing the right bedding for your feathered friends is indeed crucial for their comfort and health. Let’s explore the world of chicken bedding to help you make the best choice for your new flock in Edmonton.

Understanding the Importance of Chicken Bedding

Before we dive into the types of bedding, it’s essential to understand why proper bedding is so important for chickens. Good bedding serves multiple purposes:

  • Comfort: It provides a soft surface for chickens to rest and lay eggs.
  • Insulation: Bedding helps keep chickens warm in cold weather.
  • Moisture control: It absorbs droppings and moisture, keeping the coop dry.
  • Odor reduction: Proper bedding can help minimize unpleasant smells.
  • Enrichment: Some types of bedding encourage natural scratching and foraging behaviors.

Types of Chicken Bedding

Now, let’s explore the various types of chicken bedding available, along with their pros and cons:

1. Straw

Straw is a popular choice for chicken bedding, especially in colder climates like Edmonton.


  • Excellent insulator
  • Affordable and widely available
  • Chickens enjoy scratching in it


  • Not very absorbent
  • Can harbor mold if it gets wet
  • Needs frequent changing

2. Wood Shavings

Wood shavings, particularly pine shavings, are another common bedding choice.


  • Highly absorbent
  • Good odor control
  • Easy to clean


  • Can be dusty (avoid cedar shavings due to harmful aromatic oils)
  • May stick to eggs
  • Not as warm as straw

3. Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding is gaining popularity as an eco-friendly option.


  • Highly absorbent
  • Excellent odor control
  • Biodegradable and compostable


  • More expensive than traditional options
  • May not be as readily available

4. Sand

Sand is an unconventional but effective bedding choice, especially in warmer climates.


  • Easy to clean (can be “scooped” like cat litter)
  • Dries quickly, reducing odor
  • Helps keep chickens cool in summer


  • Heavy and can be difficult to replace
  • Not ideal for cold climates like Edmonton
  • Can be dusty when dry

5. Grass Clippings

If you have access to pesticide-free grass clippings, they can be a good bedding option.


  • Free and readily available if you have a lawn
  • Chickens enjoy scratching through it
  • Compostable


  • Can become slimy and smelly if wet
  • May introduce pests or weed seeds
  • Not suitable as a year-round option in Edmonton

Factors to Consider When Choosing Chicken Bedding

Sandra, when deciding on the best bedding for your chickens, consider these factors:

1. Climate

Edmonton’s climate is characterized by cold winters and mild summers. This means you’ll want bedding that provides good insulation during the colder months. Straw or a combination of straw and wood shavings might be ideal for your situation.

2. Coop Design

The design of your coop can influence your bedding choice. If you have a raised coop with a dropping board, you might prefer a bedding that’s easy to clean, like wood shavings or sand on the board.

3. Flock Size

The number of chickens you have will affect how quickly the bedding becomes soiled. Larger flocks may benefit from more absorbent bedding like wood shavings or hemp.

4. Availability and Cost

Consider what’s readily available in Edmonton and fits your budget. While hemp bedding might be great, if it’s hard to find or too expensive, you might opt for more accessible options like straw or wood shavings.

5. Composting Plans

If you plan to compost your used bedding, opt for materials that break down easily, like straw or hemp. Sand, while great for cleaning, isn’t ideal for composting.

Best Practices for Using Chicken Bedding

Regardless of the bedding type you choose, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Layer it thick: Aim for a layer of bedding at least 2-3 inches deep. This provides comfort and better absorption.
  2. Change regularly: Replace or add fresh bedding as needed to keep the coop clean and dry.
  3. Use the deep litter method: This involves adding fresh bedding on top of old, allowing it to compost in place. It’s great for winter warmth but requires careful management.
  4. Monitor moisture levels: Damp bedding can lead to health issues. If it feels wet, it’s time to change it.
  5. Combine bedding types: You can mix bedding types to maximize benefits. For example, a layer of sand topped with straw can provide good drainage and warmth.

Seasonal Considerations for Edmonton

Given Edmonton’s climate, Sandra, you might want to adjust your bedding strategy seasonally:

  • Winter: Use thick layers of insulating bedding like straw. The deep litter method can help generate heat.
  • Spring: As temperatures warm up, you might transition to a more absorbent bedding like wood shavings to manage increased moisture.
  • Summer: While not as hot as other regions, you still want to ensure good ventilation. Wood shavings or a sand/straw combination can work well.
  • Fall: Start transitioning back to warmer bedding options as temperatures drop.

Addressing Common Bedding Issues

Even with the best bedding, you might encounter some issues. Here’s how to address them:

Odor Control

If you notice strong odors, it’s usually a sign that the bedding is too damp. Increase ventilation, clean more frequently, and consider adding an absorbent material like diatomaceous earth to the bedding.

Pest Management

Some bedding types can attract pests. Regular cleaning and the occasional use of food-grade diatomaceous earth can help manage mites and other pests.

Egg Cleanliness

If eggs are getting dirty, ensure nesting boxes have clean, dry bedding. Some chicken keepers prefer to use different bedding in nesting boxes, such as soft wood shavings or specialized nesting pads.

Final Thoughts…

Sandra, choosing the right chicken bedding is a balance of factors including your local climate in Edmonton, your coop design, and your flock’s needs. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types or combinations of bedding to find what works best for you and your chickens. Remember, the goal is to create a comfortable, healthy environment for your feathered friends.

Thank you for reaching out with this great question. Your attention to detail in setting up your coop shows you’re going to be a fantastic chicken keeper. Best of luck with your new flock, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any more questions as you embark on this exciting journey!

Whether you're a complete beginner and don't know where to start, or you're a seasoned chicken keeping professional and just want practical "how to" advice on tap our guide to keeping chickens has got you covered...

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