In order to allow the hens to lie in them the nesting boxes should be tidy at all times. Make sure that you collect eggs every day and refresh your bedding as appropriate. Owing to overcrowding, this helps avoid damaged eggs or hens from being enticed to lay elsewhere.
The Bedding The Bedding
As a chicken keeper, the coop’s bedding will be your trademark. I never realized that there would be so much debate about chicken coop bedding, but it sure seems to be there.
Here is a basic rule of thumb: pick a bedding that when composted, is normal or easy to break down. As a natural chicken keeper, that is your best choice.
I just use grass, filthy wood chips, or cardboard bedding (not the landscape type). All of these bedding goods have proved to be natural and easy to break down as needed. With the deep litter strategy, which we use during the year, they are also quick to use.
At the local farm shop, you can get cardboard and straw bedding, but I hear a growing number of people have a harder time locating the cardboard chips than the straw.
The Method of Deep Litter
As a deep scrub, I absolutely clean out my chicken coop thoroughly four times a year. By using the deep litter process, not needing to vacuum out the bedding more frequently than it can be done. If you only have a few chickens, you will only have to clean your coop a few times a year so if you have ten or more chickens, you may have to clean your coop at least three or four times a year.
The deep litter approach is straightforward. On the floor of your coop, put at least 6 inches of straw or cardboard bedding and turn the bedding over each day. This constant stirring is just like composting of the bedding and feces. Your bedding will continue to attract healthy microbes and bacteria after a couple of days and it will begin to break down. There can never be much of an ammonia scent, but it’s always going to smell like chickens.
You should use leaves and grass clippings if you do not want to use straw or cardboard, and begin stirring every day, once or twice a day while you feed your chickens. You should even spray the coop’s feed on the floor and make the chickens turn over the bedding for you!
Do not encourage water or waterers to damp the litter, as this would increase the chances of bad bacteria, such as mold, beginning to spread. Immediately clean the litter if anything happens.
A Note On Sand Bedding
Although sand bedding has become exceedingly popular with chicken keepers, keeping up with it is just too hard for me. Sand can harbor bacteria and other nasties, and needs to be cleaned once a year for a proper washing, allowing the coop and sand to be dried out and to repair any problems with your coop surface. Sand remains continuously damp, and this may foster poor bacterial growth. This is the number one reason why we’re not using it.
If you want to use it though, I would advise you to use build-grade sand and keep it meticulously clean, dry, and safe for your chickens.