7 Coop Bedding Materials and How to Choose the Right One

  • Customize your coop’s bedding material.
  • Here are options that will keep your chickens healthy and prevent their eggs from cracking.

The litter you provide to your flock in their coop, run, nest boxes or other enclosures isn’t just a luxury. Sufficient litter provides a secure foundation for chickens’ legs and feet, a soft landing for eggs…

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by Kristina Mercedes Urquhart / Hobby Farms
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Winter Chicken Keeping, Tips and Common Concerns

Lets get one common question answered first… whether or not to add heat. Chickens have over 8,000 feathers offering them a nice cozy coat. They fluff up those feathers trapping air under their down and stay toasty warm even in temperatures below freezing. So, the answer is no, chickens don’t need added heat in the coop. However, it’s important they have a dry, draft free shelter.

Silkie 103115

Windy conditions will ruffle their feathers and compromise their ability to stay warm. Even a spot heater in the coop defeats it’s purpose in the long run, not to mention it’s a major fire risk. Chickens would indeed huddle under a heat lamp, but when they move away from it their feathers are not fluffed up and they’ll be cold. They do better in a consistent climate, not fluctuating temps. So you have a choice, either confine them to a totally heated shelter all winter, or don’t provide them any heat at all.

Your chickens will roost together at night to keep each other warm, make sure they have enough space to do this. Check on them at night, you shouldn’t see any birds on the ground, or roosting alone. This is an indication they couldn’t find a spot with the others. If you only have one or two chickens, rather than providing a heat source, do them a favor and get another chicken.

Good Housekeeping

Keep the coop clean, change litter weekly. Damp conditions from droppings not only compromise chickens ability to stay warm, but contribute to the risk of respiratory illness. If your chickens are free roam during the day, it’s a wise decision to keep their water outside the coop. It isn’t necessary to provide water at night, it only increases unwanted moisture in the coop. Ventilation is good, drafts are bad. If there’s gaps in the coop walls, patch them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, be creative! Save those empty feed bags, they’re a great way to insulate a coop!

Broody Silkies 10-23-14

Bedding


My personal choice is deep pine shavings. Many people use straw, but it has a tendency to mold, be brittle, and pokey, which can cause irritated vents on your birds.
Grass hay is nice, it stays soft, but it’s a bit pricey. All hay or straw is bulky and takes up a lot of space in the trash can. This is something to consider if you are an urban chicken keeper.

Diet for Winter Health and Warmth


Greens are just as important in winter as in summer. A good way to introduce greens and break the boredom in the coop is to hang a cabbage. This will keep them busy and healthy at the same time. Offering your birds a little scratch feed before bed will help them stay warm, but remember, scratch feed should be considered a treat, not a complete food for chickens.

More Resources for Cold Weather Chicken Keeping:

Raising Chickens in Cold Country
Cold Weather Care
Chickens in the Cold

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Do Chickens Smell?

The answer is quite simple, the real question here is are you going to enjoy spending time with your chickens? If the answer is yes, then the time you spend will mostly be fussing over your birds. In other words, fussing over your chickens means you’ll not only be cleaning up after them, but find enjoyment in creating attractive and functional housing.

All animals require effort to keep clean, and if you neglect to do so, it’s a sure bet they’re going to smell. If you look at keeping chickens realistically, what else are you going to do with them besides pick eggs and care for their living environment? We don’t sit and pet them as a rule, and training them to do tricks is certainly not going to be a success story… instead, we fuss over their coops.

Bottom line, if you spend time with your birds, then no, chickens don’t smell. Fussing over your birds makes for a happy flock, and a happy flock is what fills the egg basket!

Here’s a few pics of my chicken set-ups… lots of fussing over chickens at TBN Ranch…

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Backyard Chickens, Know What You’re Getting Into

  • Is keeping backyard chickens cost effective?
  • How much time in caring for them is involved?

These are valid questions, and certainly something you should prepare yourself before you buy those cute little chicks at the feed store. Chicks are tiny and super easy to manage the first couple weeks. But, about the time they reach 3 weeks of age they will  begin to outgrow the brooder box and become a bit of a chore to clean up after.

They will most likely be in a box in your house or garage with a heat lamp dangling overhead until they reach at minimum 4 weeks of age. By this time they are still about two weeks shy of being fully feathered and ready to be moved to the outdoor coop. From day old to six weeks is a long time, and indeed a commitment. During this time you are going to be busy cleaning the brooder box every day multiple times. They will also need to be slowly weaned off the heat lamp each week. Trust me, you will spend countless hours adjusting the temperature.

Timing is everything, make sure to buy your chicks when the temperatures where you live aren’t extreme. Otherwise you’ll be struggling to either keep six week old chicks warm or cool during the transition from indoors to out.

TBN Chicken Coop

Keeping chickens can be fun and easy to care for , but you just can’t skimp when setting up their housing, one way or another you’ll pay for it.

In other words, chickens are expensive, no matter how you slice or dice it, that first fresh egg from even a small backyard flock will cost at minimum, about $700. It’s true! That’s a lot of store bought shelf eggs.  But everything comes with a price,  the value of fresh eggs vs shelf eggs is something only you can decide.

I’ve thought about the cost effectiveness of raising chickens, and it really doesn’t add up. I’ve done the math, and well…there’s just no way! A dozen eggs can be bought for about a $1.29 here in Phoenix, sometimes even less. It definitely costs more to feed a small flock than it does to buy eggs! A $20 50lb bag of layer pellets for six hens will last about 30 days.  That equals about 180 shelf eggs a month from your local grocery store.  If each one of your hens lays 5 eggs a week, that will give you 120, not taking into consideration your hen’s rate of lay will significantly decrease in the winter and during molting. Let’s not forget you’ll be feeding those hens for 5 to 6 months before they even reach their point of lay.

Even raising meat birds can’t possibly be cost effective. I can go to any grocery store in town and buy a hot fully cooked rotisserie chicken for only $5.00! Oh my, it would cost me way more to feed that bird, and then I have to slaughter it too? Nah… I’ll pass.

There is an expense involved for the bedding in the coop and nesting area too. Pine shavings, hay, or straw will be necessary not only for the hen’s comfort, but it will keep the hen house cleaner and much easier to maintain.  The bigger the coop, the easier it will be to keep clean, but bigger also means more bedding to buy.  It also means your hens will be happier, and better egg producers. It’s like anything else, better always comes with a higher price tag.

Chickens are fun to watch, bring much enjoyment, and having fresh eggs is wonderful. There is no dispute over fresh eggs being a healthier choice, just be sure you are willing to put in the effort for the benefits.

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