The Best Types of Bedding For Chicken Nesting Boxes
They are fun, they are whacky, and there is nothing better than enjoying fresh eggs from your own hens. Raising chickens and collecting fresh eggs is a rewarding and enjoyable hobby that gives you a healthy alternative to store-bought eggs.
The main considerations when raising hens is providing a roomy and safe accommodation, feeding them a healthy diet, and bedding the nesting boxes with a comfy material for laying eggs.
Nesting Box Bedding Mentioned In This Article
According to The Frugal Chicken, she understands the importance of chicken nesting boxes as that is where the magic happens. If your chickens are not happy with their boxes and nesting material, you will find your eggs in dirty and undesirable places. If they are free-range and don’t like their nesting boxes, they may hide their eggs and you won’t find them at all.
Hopefully, you have chosen your nesting box well and they are chicken approved. Chickens need to be able to get in out of the boxes easily and feel safe and comfortable when laying. If your box is quiet, clean and dark, the next aspect you need to consider is the best material to place in the boxes.
Chicken Nesting Box Materials
Choosing the right bedding material is important for several reasons.
• Keeps the eggs clean
• Prevents eggs from cracking or breaking
• Keeps away mites
• Provides a secure foundation for chickens’ feet and legs
• Makes cleaning the nests easier
There are many options for nest bedding. They range from inexpensive and traditional to more costly and less traditional. We are going to compare the top five most popular choices for bedding but there are more options available if none of these is a good choice for you and your girls.
What To Look For In Nesting Box Bedding
If you have done your homework, you will already know that 1 nesting box will accommodate four to five chickens. Your bedding will need to hold up to several chickens a day hunkering down to lay their eggs.
With that in mind, when choosing your nesting box bedding for your chickens, you will have to look for availability, ease of acquiring, and cost. Below are 10 features you should be looking for in bedding for nesting boxes.
1. Should be absorbent
2. Preferably low in cost
3. Low dust
4. Can be used for garden compost
5. Can be cleaned easily
6. Is soft and protects the eggs
7. Insulates well
8. Is easily available
9. Has no toxic materials
10. Is lightweight
The Best Types of Bedding for Chicken Nesting Boxes
Let’s look at the most popular choices of bedding for nesting boxes and the pros and cons of each and where you can find them for sale.
1. Hay and Straw
First, you should know the difference between straw and hay. If you have other farm animals you may be feeding your horses, cows, sheep or goats hay. Straw is dried stalks left over after harvesting grain. It has no nutritional value and is not fed to animals; it is only used as bedding.
Hay is a variety of grass that is cut, dried and baled to feed animals. There are many different types of hay. Pure alfalfa would not be recommended for nesting boxes as it is very leafy, would make a mess and not be easy to clean.
A non-leafy grass hay would be better for nesting boxes. If you already have access to hay, it would be an easy choice as long as you pick stalky, well-dried hay that is low in dust. It will absorb moisture, and you can mulch and spread hay in a garden area. One word of warning, hay does contain grass seeds which may cause unwanted grass growth in garden areas if used as mulch.
Where To Purchase Hay
Hay can be found at most livestock feed stores. Look for a local feed store in your area and ask about good quality, non-alfalfa hay. One bale will last you a very long time if stored in a dry area. Any exposure to moisture will make it moldy. You can buy from a local farmer that has a “hay for sale” sign.
Cost: Contact a local feed store as hay prices vary greatly from area to area. A 15 to 20-pound bale will typically cost between $5 and $8 at your local feed store.
Straw is preferable to hay in some ways. For the Love of Livestock reports that straw is better than hay because it’s drier and less prone to carrying mold. It is only second in absorbency to peat moss. Straw is less expensive than hay. It is preferable to hay as chickens have sensitive respiratory systems and straw is low-dust.
If choosing straw, you can get it in bales like hay, but it may contain dust and “cake”. This impaction of straw can trap dust and pathogens. Straw is sold in a chopped form which will remove the risk of impaction and give you cleaner bedding. It can be used in gardens as compost.
Where to purchase Straw
Chopped straw can be found at Tractor Supply Co. and The Home Depot or at most pet stores. Chopped straw bedding can also be ordered right here on Amazon.
2. Pine Shavings
Pine shavings are popular because they are clean, inexpensive, and easy to use. They come in convenient plastic-wrapped bales that are easy to store and transport. They are soft and absorbent.
While not as natural as hay or straw, pine shavings can be picked through like litter to clean out the chicken manure. You may find that if chickens have a choice, they prefer hay as I had shavings in my nesting boxes but often found our chickens’ eggs hidden in our bales of hay.
Where to Purchase Pine Shavings:
You can find pine shavings at pet stores, feed stores, The Home Depot, and Tractor Supply Co and can also be found right here on Amazon.
3. Cedar Shavings
One benefit of cedar shavings is that if your chickens are prone to mites, cedar shavings may help drive away mites. It has the same benefits as pine shavings but will be more expensive. If you are sensitive to the odors in a chicken coop, cedar shavings will help negate that smell. Some people feel cedar is harsh on the chickens’ sensitive sense of smell.
Where To Purchase Cedar Shavings
many pet stores will carry cedar shavings. They may be harder to find than pine shavings but they are available right here on Amazon.
4. Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are natural and similar to hay. If you are on a tight budget, you can consider grass clippings. You will need to change grass clippings out frequently as they are not very absorbent. Be sure to use grass from an area that is free of pesticides and lawn fertilizer.
The main benefit of grass clippings is that they are free and found in your back yard. Be sure and let the grass clippings dry out to prevent moisture and mold in your nests. They tend to retain moisture and break down quickly. They can be used in a garden as compost.
5. Nesting Pads
Nesting pads are a less natural type of bedding but have many benefits. The higher quality nesting pads will be made of aspen shavings which are reported to be healthier than pine or cedar. The squares line the nesting boxes to provide a soft surface for the chickens to lay and the eggs to rest.
Cleaning nesting pads is a simple process as you can remove them and shake them free of debris. They will need to be replaced if they retain moisture. They will not provide much insulation and are not compostable.
Where To Purchase Nesting Pads
These are a relatively new product but may be found at a Tractor Supply Co. or feed store that carries chicken supplies. They are also available here on Amazon.
Remember when you are selecting the bedding for your nesting box that it will be the mattress on which your hens are resting and laying their eggs. If they are comfortable, they will be more likely to use their boxes. If you find your eggs on the floor of your coop or hidden elsewhere, you might want to try new bedding.
The purpose of nesting bedding is to provide a clean, comfortable, and safe place for your girls to lay their eggs. If you find the eggs are breaking, you may need softer bedding. Find one that is easy to keep clean, will protect your eggs, and when you peak in, you can see your hens smiling.