There is quite the debate out there about what is the best flooring in the coop and folks ask me what is best sand vs. straw or shavings in the coop? Is sand best? What about straw or shavings in your chicken coop? Opinions vary on raising backyard chickens and the online community is very opinionated.
I will share what I use in my southern California chicken coop. We are dry for the most part and our soil in the garden coop is clay so I use sand in the base of the chicken coop or the little run. Water drains quickly with sand and it dries fast without any mold or mildew. It also dries out the chicken poop very quickly and all I have to do is filter the droppings with my cat litter scoop every once in a while but honestly it breaks down fast in there with no smell.
I also pour builder grade sand around the run and in the chickens dust bathing areas. The chickens love it and it makes for a nice dry bathing area. Play sand in the chicken coop is fine too. It's chicken flooring and they are pooping. I would not over worry as long as you are able to maintain a clean dry chicken coop floor. I do mix organic planter mix and peat in as well to build up soil about twice a year.
The addition of sand keeps our soil from forming into hard mounds when the chickens scratch and make dust baths. It keeps soil loose so I can just rake to smooth out all the holes. When it rains it helps the water to absorb faster as well.
Now up in the actual hen house and in the nest boxes where they chickens lay, I do not use sand but have found I like straw the best. I have tried hay, shavings and now have found I love to use the chopped straw.
The shavings take too long to break down in the compost and the hay is longer and harder to clean on a daily basis when I want to spot clean the droppings. When I finally started using the straw, I fell in love with it. Funny cause we are talking about where my chickens poop. But I am a gardener first and the straw is awesome to even mulch around my plants. It breaks down quickly and also makes wonderful fast compost. I am sold. Can you tell?
So there is my take on the debate of sand vs. shavings in the coop. All of us live in different weather conditions as well and here we are dry for the most part. You have to try out what is best for your area and needs. Opinions are strong in the chicken keeping world but trial and error is the number one advisor.
See my post on how to get rid of flies in the chicken coop.
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