Can You Use Hay For Chicken Bedding?

As a chicken keeper, you must ensure your chicken bedding is comfortable for your chicken. Can you make it using hay? Read on to find out.

Whether your chicken coop floor is made of concrete dirt or wood, the key to keeping your chickens healthy and odorless is the proper use of coop bedding. Chicken bedding is the most vital step to consider in chicken farming. There are various bedding options commonly used in poultry houses. They can be either a farmer’s best friend or worst enemy. 

So, can you make use of hay as chicken bedding? Hay is made from grasses, grains, legumes, or leaves that have been harvested, dried, and bundled together for use as animal feed. It is mainly used as animal fodder and exists in different varieties. Yes, you can use it for chicken bedding. However, it presents several drawbacks such as being a poor absorber of moisture and molding over rather than drying out. Moreover, it is quite daunting to clean litter from a coop layered with hay without removing the bedding too. 

This article seeks to explore some alternative bedding materials for a chicken coop, the reasons why you need a chicken coop, and how often you should change the bedding. Keep reading for deeper insight.

 

What Is The Best Bedding Material For A Chicken Coop?

If you want to improve the quality of yields from your birds, you first have to make the vital decision of choosing which type of chicken bedding to use. There are several types of bedding used in poultry houses. They include chopped straw, corn Stover, sand, processed paper, wood chippings, rice hulls, peanut hulls, and pine shavings.

The decision to use any of these materials relies on the relative pros and cons of each material under particular farm conditions. Below we will examine the pros and cons of three of the most popular types of chicken bedding.

Straw Chicken Coop
©The Spruce

1. Straw

Straw is one of the most common options that farmers use as a chicken bedding option. It is usually a cheaper alternative to using hay, and you can even use it for other animals as well. Straw works great in covering a chicken coop and the nesting area. However, you have to consider some factors before using any type of dried grass for chicken litter.

Pros

  • Easy access – Straw is readily available in most areas of the world. You can easily find straw by searching classified sections of local daily’s or asking farmers if they could spare some to sell for your coop.
  • Highly absorbent – In a study that tested nine bedding types, straw was one of the absorbent chicken bedding, only second to peat moss. This study found that straw could hold seven times its weight in water. The absorption of chicken bedding matters because you do not want moisture accumulating on your litter, which makes the chicken bedding soggy and foul smelling.
  • Chickens love it – Chicken keepers love to throw grains into the straw and let the chickens excitedly scratch around the straw looking for it. It is a fun thing to watch, and the chickens enjoy it.
  • Minimal dust – Since chickens have sensitive respiratory systems, it is recommended that you get chicken bedding that is not dusty. Chicken bedding such as non-chopped straw is typically lower in the dust while other straws have more dust. Be sure to choose wisely.
  • They are warm – Straw strands are usually hollow thus it acts as a good insulator. They are great at keeping the chicken coop warm in cold weather.

Cons

  • Lacks absorption – Although straw holds moisture well, it is poor at releasing moisture and needs to be removed and replaced very often. High moisture retention increases pathogen growth.
  • Difficult to clean – Due to matting, lack of clumping, and knotting, it can be quite cumbersome to clean a coop with straw bedding.
  • It Stinks – Since straw is not absorbent, odors can be prevalent in hot and humid climates.

 

Shavings Chicken Coop

2. Shavings

Shavings are a type of chicken bedding that comes in a different form of wood and are a favorite option among chicken owners. The most common kind of wood shavings is from Cedar and Pine. They are great at odor control and easier to clean than wet, knotted straw.

Pros

  • Easy to get – You can easily purchase wood shavings from local feed stores at an affordable price.
  • Excellent Absorption – Wood shavings are great at absorbing and retaining moisture, keeping the coop fresh and dry.
  • Easy to clean – You can comfortably fluff and fork up litter from wood shavings much easier than you could straw bedding.
  • Great Odor control – Since wood shavings are more absorbent than either hay or straw, they are better at controlling odors that could be emanating from your chicken coop.

Cons

  • Slightly more Expensive – Depending on the size of your coop, using shavings can be somewhat pricier than other types of bedding material.
  • Harmful to Chicken- Chickens love to scratch and peck at their litter. Hence, they are likely to ingest the shavings, leading to a condition known as crop impaction.
  • Can get dusty – If the shavings used in a coop are small, they are likely to cause respiratory problems to your birds.

 

Sand Chicken Coop
©The Happy Chicken Coop

3. Sand

Using sand for chicken bedding may be a time-consuming material to use, but those who use the method prefer it above all others. Chicken owners who use the deep-litter method opt for it because one need only turn the chicken bedding over once it becomes soiled.

The clean sand from the bottom flips over to the top keeping the coop clean and fresh. It is a time-consuming method because sometimes you have to clean the chicken coop as you would clean a litter box, picking the droppings one by one.

Pros

  • Easy to clean – The litter tends to clump, making it easy to see and clean when needed.
  • Odor Control- Many people who use sand say it is good at odor control.
  • Chickens love it – Sand offers chicken an opportunity for dust baths, available 24/7

Cons

  • Does not Compost – Sand does not decompose, thus one cannot use it as fertilizer after cleaning the coop
  • Less Comfortable- It has less cushioning, hence provides a very rough landing to chickens jumping from their roost.
  • Dusty – When sand is dry, it tends to be very dusty. It could lead to respiratory issues.

 

Why Do You Need Chicken Bedding?

You may be wondering what chicken beddings are and why you even need them in the first place. Also known as chicken litter, chicken bedding is something you put in the bottom of nesting boxes or chicken coops to collect moisture and waste products from the chickens.

Chicken bedding is very important in chicken farming because from when they hatch, birds are always exposed to the bedding and its contents; mainly dust ammonia, microbes, and moisture. Besides providing comfort, it serves many purposes. It provides a means for absorbing chicken waste-, which they can scratch around and turn into compost, a place for the chickens to lay their eggs, and provides a method for odor control.

When poorly managed, chicken bedding can lead to a humid and dirty chicken coop, which encourages parasites and bacteria to thrive. It also facilitates the spread of some infectious diseases, which could lead to serious economic losses over time.

 

 How Often Should You Change The Chicken Bedding?

Chicken bedding will provide your chickens with a cleaner environment in their coops. However, it does not necessarily make it maintenance free. You have to change your litter because first, it will eventually become soiled and nasty. Second, the coop could develop a strong odor, making it an uncomfortable environment for both the birds and the owner.

Whenever you realize the coop is starting to look and smell like a pigsty, you will want to take out all the chicken bedding and replace it with some fresh batch. Alternatively, you could employ the deep litter method. It entails only cleaning the coop out a couple of times every year. Whenever the litter is soiled, you add fresh chicken bedding on top of the bedding, which causes the old bedding to decompose. It creates good compost, which can be used in the garden whenever you do deep litter cleaning of the coop.

Always check the smell and the look of the chicken bedding. It will help you determine whether it is time to change the litter. When it is time to change the chicken litter, consider wiping down the coop with some apple cider vinegar. It acts as a great natural disinfectant. A clean and sanitary chicken coop will keep your chickens healthier and more comfortable.

 

Conclusion

Hay can be used as chicken bedding, but unfortunately, it presents more drawbacks that far outweigh the benefits. It is not absorbent, very dusty, and hard to clean. Fortunately, materials like pine shavings that you could use in your coop would help keep the chickens clean, fresh, and healthy. 

Therefore, depending on the size of your coop, you can choose the alternative bedding materials that suit your needs and hope that they will help you maintain a cleaner chicken coop and keep your chickens happy and productive.

 

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