Ever been concerned about getting a quality, absorbent bedding for your flock of chickens? Wondering what all the fuss about straw is about? We’ve been there, too.
In this article, we will go over the benefits and concerns of using straw bedding for chickens. Let’s get digging into your needed answers!
Is Straw Bedding Good for Chickens?
Yes, straw is a wonderful bedding option for chickens! Straw cushions chicken’s feet, provides great nesting material, and promotes natural foraging.
Natural Scratching and Foraging
Sometimes we can get stuck on the practical aspects of life. But straw bedding isn’t just about being pragmatic! With each bunch of straw bedding, you are adding life, fun, and enrichment to your chicken’s existence! Watch your chicken delightfully peck, scratch, and forage their way through clumps of straw bedding.
Soft for Walking
However, straw bedding in a chicken coop allows your chickens to walk around freely without getting unwanted cuts and injuries! Comfort plus quality health!
Great Nesting Material
That’s right! Straw makes excellent nesting material, aiding a hen’s nesting behaviors and creating a safe, comfortable environment for eggs to be laid. Happy hen, happy owner!
What are the benefits of straw bedding for chickens?
Straw bedding for chickens add a multitude of benefits for both chickens and you as the care-giver, including the following:
- Less dusty
- Good insulation
- Economical and easily accessible
Overall, straw for chickens is generally considered to be less dusty than a few other types of bedding (i.e. sawdust). But it’s always good to keep in mind that the dust level in straw can still vary based on the quality of straw and how it’s processed.
Comparatively speaking, straw has larger and coarser particles than fine materials like sawdust. Furthermore, straw often settles rather quickly – a very fortunate fact since you know your chickens often fluff up the materials around them. As a result, you and your chickens have a bit more of a safe-guard against respiratory issues.
But don’t get lazy! Ensure you check the straw you purchase for any excess dust or fine particles. There have been cases where straw carried mold and caused severe respiratory problems. As a result, always monitor the quality of the hay you purchase for your beloved chicken flock.
Concerned about all the moisture that your chickens leave behind from their waste? The good news remains: straw for chickens does have an absorbent quality, allowing some moisture to be eliminated. This is a win, for sure! But you still need to keep an eye out for the straw quality because moldy, wet straw can be harmful to your chickens.
Mold is allowed to grow when straw gets damp, especially in less well ventilated areas like nest boxes. It’s a best practice to replace any damp straw in an enclosed space, allowing the space to dry.
Wondering how to keep your chickens warm in colder weather? Straw bedding provides an extra layer of insulation for your chickens since it’s made of hollow stems which can trap the air in the area.
Economical and Easily Accessible
Generally, straw is economical and can be purchased from many different providers, including Blue Mountain Hay.
Since straw is biodegradable, it can be added to compost after use. Once it breaks down naturally in your compost, it can be added to your garden.
Straw for chickens is not a “one-size-fits-all”. It can be used as bedding, nesting material for your hens, and be spread on the coop floor. For you this is a win! One purchase can cover the majority of your chicken bedding and coop needs.
What are some disadvantages of straw bedding for chickens?
It’s not our goal to gloss over the aspects of straw bedding for chickens that are negative. Overall, straw does not release moisture well or stay clean for long. Additionally, it could possibly cause respiratory problems in chickens or contain herbicides which is a concern if eaten.
Doesn’t release moisture well
It’s important to note that while straw makes wonderful bedding because of its absorbent qualities, it doesn’t release moisture well. How is this a problem? Well, if you leave straw as bedding for long periods of time, you may end up with a mold or mildew problem.
Additionally, location is an important factor and consideration when it comes to monitoring mold. If you live in an environment with higher mold levels (think Aspergillosis and others) with high levels of rain and humidity, mold will thrive. Yet on the other hand, this is not as relevant if you’re living in desert areas.
Doesn’t stay clean for long periods of time
Remember the moisture issue? Well, that can lead to another problem – the cleanliness of your straw bedding. Of course, you want a clean bed for your girls. So, you’ll want to be mindful of this and change the bedding as needed.
May cause respiratory problems
Again, because of its absorbent qualities, straw can easily become moldy. In fact, at times straw may be moldy even before you place it in your chicken coop. Just be mindful that mold and mildew may lead to respiratory problems for your chickens.
May contain herbicides
Since many companies grow their crops with herbicides, straw for chickens may have some lingering unwanted elements that would be harmful if eaten by your chickens. But there is an easy way to solve this problem! Check the list of ingredients on your hay product. If “legumes” are included in the hay, then you know that it has not been treated with herbicides such as picloram, clopyralid, and aminopyralid. And of course, consider buying organic straw that is harvested and grown without the use of herbicides or other chemicals.
Straw Bedding vs. other bedding options
Really, there are so many different options out there when it comes to straw for chicken coops. And the question can remain: Which should I choose? We have outlined the benefits and disadvantages of chopped straw, pine shavings, sand, chopped leaves, and hemp as shared by The Homesteading Rd.
Advantages: Straw Bedding vs. Other Bedding Options
|Chopped Straw||Pine Shavings||Sand||Chopped Leaves||Hemp|
|Easy to Clean||✔|
|Good for Layering Boxes||✔||✔|
|Cool in Summer||✔|
|Natural Grit/Dust Bath||✔|
|Can be composted||✔||✔||✔|
|Droppings dry quickly||✔|
|Less Mold Growth||✔|
|Deep litter method||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Resistance against pests||✔|
Disadvantages: Straw Bedding for chickens vs. Other Bedding Options
Okay, okay, you might say, now hit me up with some of the disadvantages? We get it. You need to make an informed decision on what bedding you choose for your chicken coop. Take a glance at the following table to visualize the disadvantages of chopped straw, pine shavings, sand, chopped leaves, and hemp. Overall, we notice that straw has more advantages and less disadvantages of these three bedding options.
|Chopped Straw||Pine Shavings||Sand||Chopped Leaves||Hemp|
|Risk of crop impaction||✔|
|Not for laying boxes||✔|
|Needs to be replaced routinely||✔|
|Not for deep litter method||✔|
|Harder to compost||✔|
|Can contain herbicides||✔|
|Not very absorbent||✔||✔|
|Hard to find||✔|
|Doesn’t release moisture well||✔|
|If not cleaned properly, can lead to higher ammonia levels||✔|
|More maintenance required||✔|
|May cause respiratory problems||✔|
|Must be fully dried, otherwise mold may grow||✔|
How much straw should I put in a chicken coop?
Generally, you should put around 3-6 inches of straw in your chicken coop. Let’s break that down further for more specific situations.
Really, the whole point of adding straw to a chicken coop is to provide amazing bedding. We recommend a minimum of 3-4 inches of straw, but 5-6 inches gives even more comfort and support to your chickens. Additionally, those added inches of straw will create better insulation and absorb unwanted odors and moisture.
For nesting boxes, you want to ensure there is plenty of straw because the whole purpose of bedding is to protect the eggs from breaking and add extra comfort to the hens.
If you’re living in a frigid area or approaching the dead of winter, consider adding extra straw to your chicken’s bedding. Straw will add insulation, contributing to overall health and decreased stress.
Deep Litter Method
With the deep litter method, you continually add new straw on top of the old straw. If this is your choice for your chickens, you will just add a few inches of fresh hay on top of the old and allow it all to sit together and compost. (Of course, you will want to clean it out every once in a while.)
Straw Bedding in a Nesting Box: The Benefits
Using straw bedding in a chicken’s nesting box adds multiple benefits, including:
- Loose Composition
- Ease of Cleaning
- Egg Protection
Through various studies, it has been shown that hens like to lay on loose bedding material when they are in the nesting season. Thus, by adding straw for your chicken coop, you are encouraging them to lay their eggs in the nesting box, which as a result, will make it easier for you to find their eggs.
Ease of Cleaning
When you use straw bedding in a nesting box, it allows for easy clean-up.. However, keep in mind that hens love to throw around bits of straw. This is fine if the floor of your coop also has straw. But if you use sand as your floor’s straw bedding, it becomes a hassle to clean up!
One of the greatest benefits of straw bedding for nesting boxes is that it provides protection for the eggs they lay. Now, instead of eggs being cracked and broken, they will stay safe within the confines of the straw bedding.
Comfort is not something to balk at! And studies have shown that without nesting materials (such as straw), hens are unable to perform some of the behaviors that cater to their overall psychological well being.
Straw Bedding in a Chicken’s Nesting Box: The Tips
Need some tips on how to best utilize straw bedding in your chicken’s nesting box? The following bullet-points give you a quick overview of the best ways to ensure that your chickens get the most out of their straw bedding.
- Cover the bottom of the nesting box before placing the straw
- Shake up the straw each time you collect eggs
- Always add adequate amounts of straw
- Check if there is enough straw underneath the chickens
- Replace straw once a week
Cover the Bottom
Before you add a layer of straw, it can be helpful to add an extra layer of protection. Many different types of material can do the trick: a blanket, a burlap bag, or an old curtain. Or, use whatever soft material you have lying around your house or farm. This does not have to be an extra expense in your life. What will this accomplish? Well, it will help prevent eggs from cracking when they hit the ground of the nesting box.
Shake Up the Straw
Each time you go to collect eggs from the nesting box, shake up the straw. This will allow the bedding to remain fluffy and provide extra comfort to your chickens. Really, it’s no sweat and only takes a few moments of your day.
Add Adequate Amounts of Straw
If you’re using a nesting box, you will want to add enough straw to create a comfortable atmosphere for your chickens to lay eggs. The exact amount will vary based on the size of your nesting box, but remember to add several inches of straw to the bottom of the box.
Check Straw Amounts Underneath Chickens
Great! You added several inches of straw and you’re confident that your chicken has exactly the comfort needed to psychologically lay eggs. Now, there is another element to consider. Humans have memory foam mattresses; chickens use straw bedding to make a depression. In a nesting box, chickens settle down into the straw, creating a slight hollow.
While this creates extra comfort for the chickens and gives a secure place for the eggs to rest until gathered, the depression may continue to grow deeper and deeper until there is not enough straw to support both the hens and the chickens.
Replace Straw Once a Week
Every week, take all the straw out of your chickens nesting box and replace it with new, fresh straw.
How often do you change the straw bedding for chickens?
In short, straw bedding for chicken coops should be changed about every week. However, the answer is more nuanced and includes the following:
- Regular cleaning
- Weekly cleaning
- Deep cleaning
- Monitoring moisture levels
- Considering different seasons
- Watching your chicken’s health conditions.
Wow, that was a lot of information. Now, what does it mean? Keep reading for more information!
Tip #1: Regular Cleaning
On a day-to-day basis, it’s important that you monitor the chicken coop for extra waste and remove straw that is very soiled.
Tip #2: Weekly Cleaning
Typically, a complete change of straw is done every week to ensure that your coop remains relatively clean and odor-free. But we understand that some add straw to a mixture of other bedding options (i.e. hemp) with straw for a deep litter method. This means that new straw is added on top of the old and then cleaned out completely a few times each year.
Tip #3: Deep Cleaning
On top of regular and weekly cleanings, it’s important to do a deep cleaning of the straw for your chicken coop once or month or as needed. What does this mean? Remove all the chickens from the coop, clean out all straw and waste thoroughly, and then lay down a fresh bedding of straw for your chickens. Then, sit back and enjoy an odor-free environment!
Tip #4: Monitor Moisture Levels
We know you want healthy chickens. So, it’s imperative that you monitor straw for moisture such as rain, snow, or water spills. Bacteria and fungi can grow on damp straw which may cause harm to your coop of chickens.
Tip #5: Consider Different Seasons
If you live in a colder region or are in winter months, it’s important that your chickens stay warm. One way to do this is by changing the straw more frequently to ensure that it is dry, adding enough insulation and warmth for your chickens.
Tip #6: Mind Your Chickens’ Health
It goes without saying that your chickens’ health is your first priority. If you notice one or more of your chickens is unwell, change the straw bedding to decrease the risk of continued contamination and disease.
Where Should I Buy Straw for my Chicken Coop?
We all want a healthy brood of chickens. When it comes to buying straw for your chicken coop, it’s important to ensure that you are not exposing your beloved chickens to harmful chemicals such as pesticides. As a result, it’s a good idea to purchase organic straw, leading to healthy and happy chickens.
As a family business, Blue Mountain Hay is committed to providing high-quality, organic straw grown in the high-altitudes of the Pacific Northwest. Each package of straw is free of pesticides, additives, and other harmful products that can negatively affect your chicken’s well-being. With our organic product, you’ll be able to rest assured that your chickens are safe. (You can also browse our selection of other hay products.)
Why Straw Bedding and not Hay Bedding?
Generally, straw is cheaper, more absorbent, better insulator, and easier to keep clean. Overall, straw has less dust, which can lead to respiratory concerns.
Do chickens need straw in winter?
Straw offers many benefits to chickens in the winter! Among these are comfort, insulation, preventing frostbite, and keeping the coop dry.
Summing it Up…
Wow, that was a lot of information! Thanks for sticking with us, and hopefully you now have a greater understanding of the nuances surrounding straw bedding for chickens.
In case you forgot, here are a few quick facts:
- Straw bedding is highly absorbent and comfortable for your flock of chickens.
- Keep a layer for 3-6 inches of straw in your chicken’s coop.
- Straw bedding creates an environment that fosters nesting.
Reviewed By Dr. Vickstrom
As a veterinarian of over thirty years, Dr. Vickstrom brings her extensive, authoritative knowledge of exotic animal health to each blog post. To read her full bio, click here.
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