Litter, often known as bedding, serves to absorb moisture and excretions from the flock.
Adding litter to a coop’s floor is an important part of a chicken coop because it helps to keep the coop clean and dry, which helps prevent diseases in chickens.
There are many different types of litter that can be used in a chicken coop:
Types of Chicken Coop Litter
My favorite litter is dust-free, uneven, gritty medium to coarse-grained sand because it’s easy to clean and dries quickly.
A long-handled poop scooper (Amazon) is also useful when sifting the poop out of the litter.
Sand for Coops & Runs
*You can buy the sand from places like hardware stores or garden centers. It’s sometimes called concrete sand, coarse sand, river sand, mixing sand, etc. As long as it’s not like the fine-grain stuff you’d put in a kid’s sandbox.
I also use sand in the run because it drains well and is easy to work with. However, it can get very hot in the summer sun. So, I only put sand in some spots of the run or make sure the run is partly shaded, toward the coop door.
I have sandboxes full of sand underneath my chicken coops as well, where my chickens love to have their dust baths.
Using dry pine shavings as a litter is a good option.
It is best to stay away from using hardwood shavings because they frequently include molds that cause aspergillosis, a respiratory ailment.
Cedar & Pine Shavings
Both cedar and pine shavings that haven’t been completely dried will result in the production of harmful phenol gases that can irritate your chickens’ respiratory system.
Particularly, they shouldn’t be used in small areas like nesting boxes or brooders.
How Much Litter Should You Use?
Use a clean litter that is at least 3 inches deep, absorbent, nontoxic, mold-free, and has pieces too big to be eaten.
Litter should be at least 8 inches deep for older chickens.
How Many Times Should You Change the Litter?
Depending on the type of litter you use, how many chickens you have, and how big the coop is in relation to the flock size, you may need to remove and replace the litter once a week, once a month, or once a year.
Carefully maintaining the litter is crucial to ensuring that it stays fluffy and absorbent and does not get compacted, moist, or foul-smelling.
In addition to promoting the growth of bacteria that release ammonia and other unpleasant gases, moist litter also supports the survival of viruses, worms, and other harmful organisms.
Often, all that is required to keep the litter functioning as it should is routine surface raking and a light dusting of fresh litter on top.
At least once a year, replace all of the litter in your coop and scrape poop off of perches and walls.
The best time to handle this job is in the fall because it provides your chickens with fresh litter as winter approaches. This is the time of year when they spend most of the time inside their coop due to bad weather.
You can compost the used litter or sprinkle it on your land in an area where chickens won’t have access for at least a year.