I’ll tell you a dirty little secret – I haven’t used bedding in most of the chicken coops we had built every time we moved house.
Sacrilege? It sure goes against what most chicken authorities teach. Our coops would always stand either on concrete or straight on the ground (by the way, I don’t recommend this option due to burrowing predators), which would soon become hard and compacted. From time to time, we’d pick a dry day, scoop the poop out, and haul it off.
That’s a pretty feasible system if you only have a few chickens and they free range most of the day.
However, things have changed for us. After moving to town, we’ve encountered some, shall we say, neighbor troubles. While we’re waiting on a budget for a permanent and watertight fencing solution, we’re keeping our chickens cooped up.
We aren’t happy about it. Letting chickens roam free makes up about half of the joys of backyard poultry, IMHO. The birds provide a natural weeding and de-bugging solution, which also enriches their diet and makes for tastier, healthier eggs. Oh, and it saves money on feed, too.
Anyway, once the hens were under lock and key, I knew I had to provide some sort of bedding for them. I thought of wood shavings or sand, but eventually settled for a simpler solution – dry leaves, a resource I have in abundance thanks to a heavily shedding hedge next to our property.
Using dry leaves for chicken coop bedding has numerous advantages:
1. It’s free: just grab a bag and haul all the leaves you want.
2. Leaves are plentiful and readily available
3. It will entertain your chickens: a bag of leaves will always contain tidbits like seeds, grass stalks, bugs, and other edibles your chickens will enjoy unearthing. This will help prevent boredom – a major problem that could result in fights and pecking among your chickens if they are cooped up.
Choose a dry day to collect fallen leaves from your yard or local park. Often, your neighbors would be happy to let you pick up their leaves too – they might even bag them for you.
Using the deep litter method, put a goodly amount of leaves and just add a bit more every week. Overhaul the bedding once in a few months. No need to bother spreading the leaves evenly – the birds will take care of it as they scratch.
’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens, and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page
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