7 Best Chicken Coop Bedding For Winter

Nearly every chicken owner has a chicken coop, or simply a cage where they keep their chickens. Protecting your chicken from the harsh elements that come with winter takes more than keeping your birds in a coop.

Your kitchen coop needs good bedding to help keep your flock of chickens warm in winter. Chicken owners have numerous options when it comes to selecting chicken coop bedding. Let’s take a look at some of the best chicken coop bedding for winter.

Do Chickens Need Bedding for Winter?

Yes, they do. Like most birds, chickens can endure harsh weather conditions. Winter is, however, the most challenging season for chickens.

Weaker members of your flock can easily fall sick due to the cold weather. While chickens don’t necessarily require heated coops, these birds need bedding in winter to endure the cold weather.

Best Bedding for Chicken Coop in Winter

Having the appropriate bedding for your flock is crucial to securing your birds’ health in winter. The best bedding for a chicken coop in winter should be capable of keeping the chicken coop free of odor, mold, flies, pathogens, and harmful bacteria.

Although you have several bedding options for your flock, you need to consider several things while selecting your chicken coop bedding.

Cost is one of the many factors to consider, although it isn’t the most critical factor for chicken owners seeking to keep their chickens warm, comfortable, and dry in winter. Consider whether the bedding can absorb your flock’s waste. The best bedding should also allow for longer time durations between cleanings.

Because there are multiple factors one needs to consider when selecting chicken coop bedding, it is difficult to suggest that one bedding is the most suitable for your chicken coop in winter. After all, every bedding has its cons and pros. Let’s check this rundown of the seven best chicken coop bedding for winter.

– Straw and Hay

Straw and hay make excellent bedding materials for chicken coops in winter. These insulate well, which means your chicken coop will remain warm for longer in the cold season. They also make thick bedding in any chicken coop, making them suitable for providing your flock with the much-needed heat during the cold season.

Straw and hay bedding is among the cheapest bedding alternatives for chickens, thanks to the availability of straw and hay. The bedding further allows the uric acid in the chicken waste to drain away quickly.

Nonetheless, this bedding doesn’t release moisture properly, meaning it doesn’t remain dry for long. Furthermore, straw and hay bedding harbors pathogens, dust, and bacteria. You can still opt for this bedding to keep your chicken warm in winter if you are ready to replace the bedding frequently.

– Shredded Leaves

Shredded leaves can also make cozy and warm bedding for your poultry in winter. Using shredded leaves is also an excellent way to make quality compost for your garden. You can easily create a nice warm chicken bedding by collecting dry leaves in the fall, shred them, and keeping them in a dry, moist,-free area in readiness for winter.

Spread the shredded leaves in the coop when winter approaches. Shredded leaves are bulky, and your chicken will enjoy scratching around in the bedding. The only disadvantage of this bedding is that it wears out rather quickly, turning to dust and ultimately creating messes in the coop.

You can still use shredded leaves to make your chicken coop bedding if you keep replacing the shredded leaves regularly.

– Recycled Paper

Recycled paper makes excellent chicken bedding. It is cheap and readily available. It also holds on heat pretty well, meaning your flock can enjoy long hours of warmth if you use recycled paper as your chicken bedding in winter. Recycled paper is absorbent, and hence the bedding will quickly dry out once it gets wet.

Making chicken bedding from recycled paper isn’t the best idea for large-scale poultry owners or people with large coops. Such people need a vast amount of recycled paper to make bedding for their flock.  Although you can get a host of recycled paper for free, you should use recycled paper with caution.

Recycled paper may contain ink, which is potentially hazardous to chickens. Moreover, recycled office paper is heavily treated and processed, which means it has some chemicals that can be harmful to your flock over time. Nonetheless, the recycled paper makes excellent bedding for your chicken in the cold season, notwithstanding its shortcomings.

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings are the most popular choice of material for chicken bedding.  Also, wood shavings boast a pleasant smell, and they are also amazingly absorbent. They are inexpensive, and you can get them from woodworkers or in feed stores. Pine shavings are arguably the best choice of wood shavings to use for your chicken bedding.

These shavings dry fast, don’t decompose quickly, and they are also inexpensive. Pine shavings also have a mild, inviting scent that chickens find enticing.  The other choice of wood shavings you can use for your chicken bedding in winter is cedar shavings. These wood shavings emit a pleasant aroma that keeps your coop smelling great.

Nonetheless, these shavings can affect your birds’ sensitive respiratory systems. Avoid using cedar shavings as bedding for young chicks.  While they are highly absorbent, wood shavings can also get wet quickly, mainly due to accidental water leaks in the coop.

Get rid of the damp wood shavings and replace the shavings with fresh, dry ones. Desist from using wood shavings that are extremely fine. Such wood shavings can’t provide bedding with enough thickness to keep your birds warm in winter.

Overly, wood shavings can make an excellent choice of bedding for chickens if you select the appropriate shavings for your chicken coop.

– Hemp Bedding

Hemp bedding is a product of the hemp plant. This bedding is made by mulching the stalk of the hemp plant into straw-like bedding. The advantage of hemp bedding is that it is highly absorbent, which helps prevent the growth of microbes and bacteria in the coop.

It is fast becoming a popular bedding option for chicken owners who keep chickens in their backyards. A hemp bedding is less likely to wear out quickly, especially if you keep only a couple of chickens in your coop. While hemp bedding is an expensive choice of bedding to use for your flock in winter, it provides plenty of warmth to chicken during the cold season.

It is thick enough, meaning it can withhold plenty of heat through the winter. Moreover, this bedding boasts excellent odor control, and it also reduces the ammonia smell emanating from poultry waste.

Besides providing plenty of warmth for your flock, hemp bedding is also quite soft, making this bedding suitable for egg-laying hens. The most notable shortcoming of hemp bedding is that it isn’t readily available. Nonetheless, you can get quality hemp bedding from a hemp store that sells various hemp products.

– Unfinished Compost

You can use unfinished compost as chicken coop bedding in winter. Nevertheless, you should strictly use unfinished compost as bedding for your chicken while it is still hot. Ensure the unfinished compost remains dry by ensuring there are no water leaks in the coop.

Wet unfinished compost can be messy. It can be hazardous for your chicken since it can harbor pathogens and encourage the growth of bacteria in your coop. Even worse, wet unfinished compost can make the coop and the entire flock smell awful.

Notwithstanding its downsides, unfinished compost can still make warm bedding for your birds, provided it is still producing heat. Spread a thick layer of unfinished compost all over the coop to create warm bedding that your birds can sleep on throughout the winter.

– Sawdust

Poultry owners have been using sawdust as chicken bedding in winter. Sawdust is expensive and also readily available. Sawdust is an excellent choice of bedding for chicken owners seeking to produce compost for their gardens.

It offers a couple of advantages for chicken coops. First, sawdust absorbs moisture pretty well. Secondly, sawdust absorbs the smell from chicken waste quite quickly.

Nonetheless, there are a couple of downfalls that come with using sawdust as bedding in your coop. The most notable pitfall of using sawdust is that it is too fine,  meaning it can spread dust inside the coop.

Excess dust in the coop can make your chicken vulnerable to respiratory infections. Fortunately, you can easily avoid this pitfall using sawdust pellets since these pellets are large and less likely to cause dust.

How Thick Should Be the Bedding in Winter?

When updating your chicken coop bedding in winter, it is paramount to pay attention to the thickness of the bedding. The recommended thickness of a chicken coop bedding in winter should be at least six inches thick.

Such thickness is ideal for providing adequate heat and coziness your flock needs to withstand the cold season.


The choice of bedding you use in your chicken coop in winter can either ruin or enhance the chances of your flock surviving the harsh cold season.

Fortunately, you have plenty of choices at your disposal when it gets to chicken coop bedding. Pick the most suitable bedding for your birds right away as winter approaches.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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