There are many reasons why poultry farmers raise chickens. Some of these reasons include raising chickens for produce, such as eggs and meat, as pets, and for ornamental purposes. But, as far as we enjoy their company, chickens demand to stay in a safe, comfortable, and clean place. Since their beddings are quite essential to them, you need to learn how often to change chicken bedding for them to stay happy and healthy.
Now, most people believe that cleaning a chicken coop is a tedious job that involves dealing with smelly litter. That’s not true. Actually, the truth of the matter is that chickens are among the farmyard animals that demand the least maintenance.
For that reason, how often you change the bedding depends on several factors such as the size of your flock, the size of the coop, the presence of wetness, and the type of bedding you’ve got. But, just to answer your question, the average lifespan of a chicken bedding is around a week or 4-6 months depending on the type.
Why Do You Need to Change Chicken Bedding?
Before we even start, hygiene and cleanliness are just two factors that promote healthy living. When it comes to chickens, changing the beddings is one way of ensuring the coop is clean and free from parasites and bugs.
You see, just like most other animals, chickens are unable to control their poop. This means that they can eliminate their waste anywhere within the coop from the nest box to the feeders. Since their waste contains faces and urine, a buildup of this waste can create a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
That said, let’s discuss a few pointers on why it’s essential to change chicken bedding routinely.
1. To Remove Awful Smell
The first reason for changing chicken bedding is to keep it smelling fresh. Of course, you can’t sleep or live in a smelly room, right? Well, the same applies to chickens. By allowing the manure to accumulate, it produces a pungent smell that attracts pests and diseases not forgetting rodents.
2. Prevents Diseases
Now, chickens’ faces and urine contain ammonia, which when allowed to accumulate might get wet and provide a perfect breeding spot for dangerous mold. Some of this mold can cause severe illnesses such as aspergillosis and mycoses. Ammonia itself is also harmful and can cause respiratory issues, depressed growth, and even blindness in chickens.
Although you’ll manage to treat your flock for any of these illnesses, prevention is always better than cure. One surefire way of preventing these issues is by changing chicken bedding routinely.
3. Prevent Parasites
The last reason why you need to replace your coop’s beddings is to avoid the accumulation of mites and other parasites. Parasites such as coccidiosis, roundworms, and tapeworms are very dangerous and mostly thrive on wet beddings.
So, to discourage these parasites from multiplying, it’s recommended that you change the beddings often. In case of a worst-case scenario, you can pour boiling water into the coop, let it dry then add new fresh beddings.
Best Method for Chicken Coops
Earlier on, we mentioned that chicken bedding can last for a week or up to 6 months depending on the type of beddings you’re using. In most cases, the approach you use to add the beddings is what makes the ultimate difference. In this section, we’re going to discuss two main methods you can use.
1. Deep Litter Method
The deep litter method is one of the common methods used by most chicken farmers. Here, farmers allow the chickens’ poop to accumulate on the floor of the coop. As the poop pile up, you start to add pine or lavender shavings to the floor of the coop.
As months pass by, the organic compost piles into a deep litter. This litter becomes an organic fertilizer that can be used in the garden. It also allows your chickens to forage in search of microbes and live insects.
2. Normal Litter Method
Although most people prefer the deep litter method, some farmers ditch it in favor of the normal litter method. This method is similar to how you maintain a pet house. Instead of allowing the litter to pile, you just wait until feces accumulate for you to scoop it out and replace it with fresh shavings.
Here, you can replace the shavings weekly or monthly depending on the size of your flock. This method helps to keep the chickens clean and best of all; it minimizes the spread of germs among the chickens.
Bedding for Baby Chicks
Spring is usually known as the chicks’ season. Whether it’s increasing the flock or trying to raise a new breed, your new chicks require security, warmth, and good shelter to thrive. When it comes to warmth, you need to find the best bedding for your baby chicks.
The best materials to use as beddings in your brooder are pine shavings, clean sand, and shredded newspaper. Whole sheets of newspapers should be avoided, as they’re slippery, less absorbent, and worse, they can cause leg and foot deformity on growing chicks (a condition known as spraddle legs). You should avoid using cedar chips or any aromatic wood chips, as they can be toxic to chicks.
What Bedding Is Best for Chickens
Other than chicks, mature chickens also need a safe, warm, and comfortable place to rest on. For that reason, you need to choose the best bedding that will offer a safe place for eggs to land, a secure ground to step on, and an easy way to gather dropping easily. In case you’re struggling to find the best bedding, here are 4 popular choices you can consider.
Straw is one of the most common materials used as coop bedding. It’s natural and most chickens and birds use it to build their nests. In fact, before wood chippers and packaged shavings gained popularity, farmers used to rely on straw.
But, although straw is highly recommended, there are some things you need to consider before choosing it as your primary bedding.
- Straw is easily accessible. In fact, you can ask local farmers if they have any straw left to sell to a chicken enthusiast.
- Straw is hollow and very warm. It’s hence a perfect fit for winter seasons where insulation is needed to keep the chickens warm.
- On, the flip side, straw is not good at absorbing moisture. For that reason, it tends to stink a lot and must be replaced quite often.
- It’s also difficult to clean due to knotting and matting.
- Lastly, straw is vulnerable to mold, pathogens, and pests. It provides a perfect breeding spot for germs that can spread between chickens.
Another type of material used for chicken bedding is shavings. Shavings come in different forms depending on the type of wood used. The most common types of shavings used are cedar and pine. Other types you’re likely to find are hardwood, sawdust, and aspen shavings.
Starting with cedar shavings, these ones are reliable but are not recommended for young chicks. Since cedar has a strong aromatic nature, it tends to cause respiratory issues to chicks making it highly toxic.
Pine shavings, on the other hand, are organic and compostable. These shavings are cheap, dry fast, and don’t break down quickly. They’re the best for the deep litter method as they are easy to shovel out.
Sawdust and hardwood shavings are prone to mold growth. The worst thing is that they can cause respiratory issues if they’re dusty and too fine.
Lastly, there are aspen shavings. These ones are more absorbent than pine shavings and have no aromatic oil. The only problem is that they’re expensive and quite hard to find.
3. Recycled Paper
Shredded papers can also make great bedding for your flock. However, considering the size of your coop, it would take a lot of recycled paper to fit your entire coop. For that reason, this bedding is left for brooder boxes if you have small chicks.
Now, before you pick this option, you should note a few things. One, shredded papers absorb quickly meaning you have to replace them often. Two, avoid shredded papers from magazines and fliers as they can be slippery. Three, avoid papers containing ink as ink can be toxic to chickens.
Of all the options we’ve discussed, sand bedding is the best. Though expensive, sand bedding is easy to clean and it doesn’t attract bacteria. It also dries quickly making it the best if you want to employ the deep litter method (discussed above).
When using sand bedding, you only need to clean the coop at least once or twice yearly. When cleaning, all you have to do is turn the sand to bring the bottom (clean) layer to the top and the top soiled layer to the bottom.
Since it dries fast, sand also doubles up as an excellent material for sand bathing. It also provides a great foraging ground for your flock, especially if you have an outdoor run that’s exposed to the elements. The only problem with sand bedding, however, is that it’s quite expensive and time-consuming to set up.
Where to Buy Hemp Bedding for Chickens
Hemp bedding is a creative and effective option that lets you insulate your coop. It has zero dust, controls smell and it doesn’t encourage the buildup of mold and pests. Something else about hemp is that it doubles the absorbency of common bedding materials such as pine, straw, and wood chips.
Now, where can I buy hemp bedding? Well, hemp bedding can be purchased in most online stores. It can also be bought in selected animal feed stores around your location.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. When Should I Clean Out My Chicken’s Coop?
The best time to clean your chicken coop is when you start seeing a buildup of chicken feces, dust, cobwebs, and dirty nesting material. Most experts recommend cleaning the coop at least weekly or twice a year depending on the method you’ve employed, and the size of your flock.
Q2. Will Chickens Stop Laying if Coop Is Dirty?
Yes, they will. If the coop is filthy dirty, smelly, wet, or infested with bugs and parasites, then your chickens are likely to feel stressed and just stop laying eggs. So, if you notice that your chickens are not laying eggs, then you should inspect the coop and the nesting boxes.
Just to offer a simple solution, make sure that you clean the coop often and replace the old bedding with soft, fresh, and comfortable bedding.
Q3. How Thick Should a Chicken Bedding Be?
Now, the best size for chicken bedding is 3 inches thick. This size provides sufficient insulation to the coop during cold and hot weather. It also offers enough cushioning that’s needed to keep the chicken safe when jumping from the roosting bar.
So, how often should you change chicken bedding? Well, we believe you have the answer. As you can see, different factors determine how often chicken bedding should be replaced. The method used, deep litter vs. normal litter, plays a huge role in how long beddings should be changed.
Other factors include the size of your flock, the type of bedding material, and the size of your coop. Other than that, we’ve discussed the best bedding for baby chicks and we’ve also answered some of the pressing questions you might have regarding today’s topic. That said, we believe that this guide has offered you immense value.
Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!