Can You Use Sand in Chicken Coop?
Sand has been one of the most used materials in the chicken coop. Its popularity is traced back to the California egg industry where it was used for the first time. During that time, very few chicken keepers paid attention to sand.
This is attributed to the fact that traditionally chickens were considered to be farm animals found mostly in areas such as barns where hay was a common bedding material for them.
Another popular material that has passed the test of time in addition to hay is straw and sand. In an actual sense, chickens do not need any form of bedding in their coop except in their nesting boxes. In this article, you are going to learn more about sand as a bedding material for chickens.
Is Sand a Good Bedding for Chickens?
Yes! Sand is a good choice of bedding materials for your chickens. In fact, you can use sand in your chick brooder (with older chicks), coop, or run. Sand comes with many advantages compared to other types of materials used as bedding in a chicken coop or run.
Besides, sand is considered an all-weather material, meaning that you can use it across all seasons. It does not matter whether it gets wet or not because it dries out fairly quickly.
Again you don’t have to worry about it getting rotten, developing mold, or mildew given that it is impervious in different types of weather conditions. This feature makes sand exceptional compared to conventional bedding materials used in chicken coops today.
Most chicken owners use sand as their flooring material rather than bedding materials. But one thing remains certain, whether you use sand as a bedding material or a flooring material for your chicken coop and run, just know it has advantages and disadvantages.
Since its benefits outweigh its negatives, sand is a great option for using as bedding material for your chicken coop and run. But the question is, what type of sand is suitable for this task?
What Kind of Sand Can You Use in the Coop?
Not every type of sand can be used in the chicken coop. This is because sand comes from different areas with different conditions. It is also available in many names such as coarse sand, river sand, and construction sand.
These names don’t offer any help that much. Sometimes, these sand names create a lot of confusion among different chicken owners. Very fine-grained gravels and medium to coarse-grained sand are preferred for making chicken coop bedding. These two types of sand have been referred to as mortar sand, riverbank sand, and concrete sand by gravel companies.
Unfortunately, many gravel companies do not provide a special name for different types of sand. For them, any type of sand can serve the intended purpose.
To be on the safe side, look at the sand and analyze it critically before you purchase it. This is attributed to the fact that some companies use sand names interchangeably and this can cause a lot of confusion, especially to new chicken keepers.
With that being said, coarse-grained sand is the most appropriate type of sand to use in your chicken coop or run because it is affordable, easy to clean, reduces the smell, does not rot, and can lower bacterial count.
This does not imply that other types of sand are not suitable for a chicken coop or run. Construction sand, riverbank sand, and bank run sand are also ideal for making chicken bedding material because they are all-purpose sand.
The choice of sand sometimes depends on the backyard chicken owner’s preference. However, the type of sand to avoid in your chicken coop and run is the sandbox sand and playing sand. These two types of sand are ground-up quartz. They also contain a lot of dust that can be detrimental to your chickens’ health when ingested.
Apart from that, this finely ground sand can easily freeze-solid during the winter months. They can also cook your chicken’s feet in the hot summer period when temperatures rise. Finally, they have minimal insulation properties to keep your birds warm in cold weather conditions.
Benefits of Using Sand as Bedding Material
When you use sand as bedding material for your chickens, you should look forward to these benefits:
1. Sand is Considered a Natural Bedding Material for Chickens
Sand is a naturally occurring material. As such, it is very natural for all types of chickens. Bear in mind that all chickens are descendants of the Red Junglefowl found mainly in the tropical areas. This tropical species of birds dwell mostly in forested places or areas with thick vegetation.
For that reason, these richly-vegetative and forested areas are usually located closer to creeks and rivers. And these are places where sand is found in plenty. So, chickens are used to spending most of their time in the sand. This means that introducing them to sand as their bedding material will keep them comfortable.
Unlike other forms of chicken bedding such as hay or pine shavings, sand is considered a perfect choice of material for chickens both in captivity and in the wild.
2. Sand is an Exceptional Litter for Chickens
Apparently, chickens need litter more than bedding. Sadly, most chicken keepers confuse litter for chicken bedding. The two are completely different in this context. In particular, bedding refers to that material that farm animals sleep on. A good example is straw bedding.
What you need to know is that chickens don’t sleep in the same way as other farm animals. Instead, they roost on wood or other structures in the coop. In this regard, sand serves as litter for chickens. It provides a place for your birds to poop in.
Sand possesses these important characteristics that make it a perfect choice of litter for backyard chickens:
- Keeps bad smell in check
- Absorbs or releases moisture well
- Does not break down, create mold or grow mildew
- Dries out chicken droppings
Only sand can have the above-listed properties compared to other materials used in the chicken coop or chicken run. Even though sand is poor at absorbing moisture, it releases moisture well, making it ideal for use in places that experience a lot of rain.
3. Sand Makes a Cleaner Bedding Material for Chickens
When you compare sand to other bedding materials used in the chicken coops, sand appears to be the cleanest of all. Regardless of this advantage, sand also needs some cleaning to keep the environment in your chicken house conducive for your birds.
This is where sand stands out from the rest of the bedding materials used in chicken coops today. Cleaning sand is easier and more time-saving than cleaning hay or straw. All you need is to scoop the chicken droppings every day and dispose of them to the compost pit.
4. Sand Bedding is Always Dry
In addition to being the cleanest bedding materials for chicken coops, sand dries up quickly. For that reason, sand does not decompose or degrade over time. In fact, sand does not smell compared to bedding materials such as pine shaving, stray, and hay among others.
This is due to the fact that sand does not break down no matter how long it stays in the coop. Additionally, sand helps in drying out the chicken droppings relatively quickly. As a result, this feature makes sand attract fewer flies to the chicken coop or run.
5. Sand Bedding Contains fewer Pathogens
As you already know, sand is the cleanest type of chicken bedding material you can rely on. On that note, sand is believed to contain fewer disease-causing organisms than materials such as pine shavings, hay, and straw.
Backyard chickens in a sandy environment are less exposed to bacteria and other deadly pathogens like coccidiosis. At the same time, these birds are less exposed to parasites such as worms, fleas, and lice. This is because your chicken coop with sand has less wet poop than what you will find in coops with other bedding materials.
Sand is inorganic, so it does not break down to create a safe environment for disease-causing organisms. In this sense, keeping chickens in coops that have sand will prevent cases of poultry diseases, especially during wet seasons.
6. Sand Bedding Promotes Production of Clean Eggs
Other types of coop bedding material can make your chickens have poop smeared on their legs. If they get into their nesting boxes, these birds can bring poop with them. Their eggs may become soiled or dirty with poop.
Worse still, if you live in an area that has clay-rich soil, the excess mud during wet months can make nesting boxes dirty. This happens quite often when free-ranging chickens drag with them some mud that also finds its way into the nesting boxes. Consequently, eggs get dirty and this may take away a great deal of your time to clean them.
But with sand in the run and coop, you can look forward to collecting clean eggs. Besides keeping the eggs clean, sand in the coop can be a great source of grit and a perfect substrate for dust bathing. Most importantly, sand has lower levels of ammonia than hay, straw, or pine shavings.
Drawbacks of Using Sand as Bedding
Sand has its share of problems when used as bedding materials for your backyard chickens. Some of these drawbacks include:
1. Sand Becomes Hot in Most Open Coops
During the summer months, sand can absorb heat to become extremely hot. This is a common trend in wide-open coops that are not well-protected from elements. Hot sand in summer can be life-threatening to your chickens. Regular enclosed and well-protected chicken coops will not experience the problem of sand becoming hot. Plus, their interior will remain cooler even in hot summers.
2. Sand Can Get Frozen Due to Rain and Snow
Aside from becoming too hot in summer, sand can get frozen in winter or cold weather conditions. This is usually the case in most coots that are open. Frozen sand can negatively impact your chickens’ well-being. So, you should ensure that their coops are well protected from external elements all the time.
3. Sand is Not Suitable for Deep bedding Method
Most chicken owners rely heavily on deep bedding materials to keep the coops warmer in winter. Unfortunately, sand is not the best choice for deep bedding materials.
4. Sand May be Harder to Come by
For some people, fiding sand can be a real problem in comparison to finding conventional types of coop bedding like straw, hay, and pine shaving. In addition, sand is relatively heavy, expensive upfront, and not ideal for garden compost.
Do You Need to Replace Sand in Chicken Coop?
Yes! Once you have the sand inside the coop, the next task should be to maintain it. A little poop scoop can go a long way to keep the sand clean. Sand replacement after three to five months can also help keep the coop in good condition.
How to Clean Sand in Chicken Coop?
You can keep the sand by picking up chicken poop daily, raking it after a heavy rainstorm, or freshening it using zeolite, Diatomaceous Earth, and wood ashes.
Can You Use Beach Sand in Chicken Coop?
Yes! Beach sand is suitable for chickens, especially if you are living near the beach. This type of sand can help your birds find edibles such as shells.
Is Quikrete Sand Safe for Chicken Coop?
Yes. Quikrete is all-purpose sand and is more course than play sand. Therefore, it is suitable for your coop bedding material.
Can Sand Get Wet in Chicken Coop?
Yes, sand can get wet when exposed to wet conditions. But the good news is that sand dries up very quickly because it does not retain a lot of moisture for too long.
Sand is one of the popular bedding materials for chicken coops. This material has been used since the start of the 20th Century. However, sand should not always be used in the brooder because baby chicks can eat it, become impacted, and eventually die.
Also, sand may exposure these little birds to pathogens that can make them sick and die due to their weak immune system. Use sand mainly with grown hens and pullets. Coarse sand and river sand is the most recommended since it is environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and does not decay.