One of the decisions that we have to think of when starting our flock, is what kind of bedding will be the right choice for you. There are many different options from pine chips, straw, leaves, sand, dirt, etc. I honestly feel it depends on how many birds you have, how often you want to clean, and time of the year due to smell. I will go over a few different types I have used, what I have thought, and my advice for you.
Being new to farming, when we started with our coop I used hay. As a city girl that's what I would have associated with bedding for an animal. When we only had the one hen it honestly wasn't that bad and I continued to use hay for a while.... That is till I added more birds. The hay became wet very easily and the smell was almost unbearable at times. I cleaned on a regular basis but keeping up with the smell was the hardest part. So hay in our coop was very short lived. If it is your only option and you only have a few birds you may be able to get away with it, but again I would not personally recommend it.
The next type we tired was pine bedding. I have to say this was not only the most visually appealing especially the first few days after lying it. But the smell and the absorption of previous smell made the coop smell very fresh. BUT.... When it did get wet it was HEAVY.. I actually continued to use the pine for over a year and even was using deep litter method especially with so many birds. But overall the clean-up and the loss of bedding during clean-up is what ultimately made me steer away from it in the coop. I still use it for the baby chicks and in the brooder box, but because the smell would become so bad at times I had to find another avenue that would work better for us. The one benefit that I do have to say from using it was composting, using the pine bedding helps with the carbon ration in your compost pile. So using this method you can weigh your options and how you plan to use the bedding after its removed from the coop.
The next and current option we have chosen is sand.... I have not been using the sand long enough to say how much I fully hate or love using it. But the smell is not as bad as it was before and the poop can be easily raked up. The only concern I have had more so in these colder months is the fact that the sand can dump together or become stuck and so I am not completely sold on sticking to it. I can and will continuously update how we feel about bedding and what I personally recommend for you.
Ultimately the options depend on the size of your flock and how often you are wanting to maintain the bedding. Just keep in mind the importance of keeping the bedding clean and dry for your girls. Disease and parasites can spread quickly and be very harmful to your flock and potentially costly to replace the flock.
Have a suggestion for a future post?? Feel free to ask!!