Bedding poultry can prove very expensive at times, especially if it means purchasing new bedding on the regular. Although chickens and other poultry spend a majority of their time outdoors, they still need their comfort at night, making choosing the right bedding, an important task.
Wood Shavings and Straw
Most people tend to use wood shavings, when housing poultry, usually softwood shavings. This is due to their excellent binding and absorbing abilities and the somewhat pleasant aroma they give off. Shavings do not require daily changing, just the most soiled areas, and are a good place to lay eggs. Shavings are also good at retaining heat, while also keeping the coop dry. They do though, gain unpleasant aromas quite quickly.
Straw, chopped preferably, is another good option for poultry. It is already widely used in other forms of agriculture, so why not poultry? Straw, which in smaller stalks is usually a better option, absorbs more moisture and is easier to handle. When it gets wet, straw can attract a range of parasites, which is one downfall to using it.
There are though, other options available to farmers, which you can check out below:
This one might seem a bit 'out there', but it is also a silly one to ignore! Leaves, during Autumn, are in bountiful supplies, littering roadsides and almost every footpath, so why not use them as bedding? Dry leaves are an excellent free alternative for farmers. They not only provide a source of feed, via insects in the leaves, but are also very absorbent.
Any excess leaves can also be bagged for use in the future, while you can also blend it with a mix of other bedding with good success.
Shredded paper is actually a valid option and a good way of recycling old newspapers. Simply chop the paper up into small pieces and disperse in the coop. It is not as absorbent as other bedding though and tends to get compact. It is very easy to clean it out and relay more paper, though it is necessary to do this on a more regular basis. It does though, provide a soft laying place for the hens and other poultry.
Another household waste product that can be reused as an excellent bedding. Not only is cardboard extremely absorbent, but is also has the advantage of being dust free! It is best used when cut up into pieces. It can also be reused again, once soiled. It can be easily made into a compost, as it breaks down easily.
NOTE: When using cardboard, always ensure you choose ink-free cardboard. This is because poultry tends to peck at and inspect everything, coloured cardboard could be potentially very dangerous if ingested.
Sand is another choice for poultry farmers to consider and can even be more cost-effective than other options. It is very easily maintained and does not require daily changing, like other bedding. Any dirt or fecal matter can be scooped out easily with a shovel.
One problem though, is that it is not as absorbent as other options. It also doesn’t offer a good source of heat and can become very dusty in hot weather. It is though, also a source of grit for your birds, meaning it helps their digestive system function normally.
There is a range of other options, including hemp, being used in the US and other countries, and is said to be able to absorb up to 400% its weight. The above list may be a bit more realist-chick.