If you’ve got chickens, or are thinking of getting them, bedding up is quite a big thing, especially in winter. It’s important to keep them warm and dry, and as dust and mite free as possible. I had to learn how to change the chicken coop’s bedding on the fly, I’d never had chickens and when I moved in with B all of a sudden I had 3 to look after! It’s not hard, but like with everything, it’s easier when you kind of have an idea.
Obviously this isn’t the only way to change your chicken coop’s bedding, I’m merely telling you how I’ve learnt is best for my chickens, keeping them warm and dry as long as possible.
Changing your chicken coop’s bedding
Much the same as any other animal that lives outside, chickens need their bed sorting regularly. You can go with various methods here, but I do believe the Deep Litter Method is the most popular especially when winter hits. You can decide against this though, and you certainly don’t have to do it in the summer months when it’s a lot hotter.
Deep Litter Method
Just in case you’re new to chickens or haven’t heard of this before, the deep litter method is essentially layering the chicken coop’s bedding rather than removing it and starting again every time.
For example, putting in a base layer of a few inches at first, would then get compacted down and covered in manure. Once this happens, you’d put another couple inches of bedding on top, leaving the bottom layer underneath.
This is a good method, as long as your coop is dry and you watch for mites. You definitely don’t have to go with this method, but I do recommend it in winter. Anyway, let’s get into it.
Clean out the chicken coop
Before you think about deep litter or not, you need to start with a clean coop. I could write a whole post on this alone – probably will, to be honest – but in short, I clear it out entirely, wash it down inside and out, spray it with mite spray, let it dry, and start afresh with chicken bedding.
New chicken bedding
You can use a lot of different things as bedding for chickens, as long as it’s dry. We used to use straw, as it was as cheap as £3 for a small bale of straw, which lasted a couple of months if we bedded up once a week.
When we moved though, we found our closest country store didn’t stock straw bales. But, they did stick Chicken Bedding, which is straw that’s been through a chopper. It’s a lot easier to use, and it’s easier for the chickens to move about in. Plus it’s actually quite cheap, making the other options a little silly for us to pursue.
I will admit I probably go overboard when I fill up a coop from nothing. I like them to have a lot of bedding to kick about and flatten how they want. In a way it’s another form of entertainment for them, since only 2 of all the chickens actually roost. The rest sleep on the floor of the coop -making the chicken coop’s bedding a lot more important.
Once they’ve got their new bed and have done their thing, I check their bedding once a day when I feed them in the morning. Once I think it could really do with sorting again – usually once a week, two weeks at a push – I do one of two things:
In summer, we will do the whole thing again from clearing it out to bedding up again. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t take too long. In summer they don’t like having too deep a bed – at least mine don’t – because it gets so hot in the coop. I’ve actually got a post about caring for your chickens in the summer heat, if you’d like to take a look.
Or, if it’s winter, we will put another layer down, thus following the deep litter method. If you know a little about composting, the bottom layers of the bedding slowly start to decompose along with the manure, creating heat. Obviously you don’t want it to become unhygienic, so you do need to keep an eye on the condition of your birds and the chicken coop’s bedding, but as long as it’s clean you should be good.
Adding mite powder
Obviously if you suspect a mite infestation, you need to take all the bedding out and treat the coop and start with fresh bedding, and you should powder your birds. As a preventative measure, however, I add mite powder to the bedding as we put it in.
If you really don’t like the sound of the deep littler method I mentioned above, you can always clear out your chicken coop and start with fresh bedding every time. In the winter this can become quite a bother, especially if we go through a couple of weeks of wet weather, as while your working the likelihood is you’ll get water or damp in the coop which breeds bacteria.
How do you change your chickens bedding? Do you follow the deep litter method?