The Ins and Outs – Chicken Coop Bedding and Litter
The popularity of raising chickens in the backyard as a potential source of healthy, fresh eggs and meat is soaring in the United States. To properly house chickens in a backyard environment, the birds need a safe area to roost, lay eggs and get out of poor weather. This safe area is typically a chicken coop or chicken house. Since the coop is a semi-confined space, the environment within the coop is critical to maintain health of the birds. One aspect to maintaining a healthy chicken coop environment is to carefully select the bedding material. The bedding material is critical to absorb moisture and ammonia from chicken manure, thus facilitating respiratory health. It is also critical to prevent disease through the spread of harmful bacteria. Bedding material will also provide entertainment value since chickens will scratch and peck constantly in the bedding material. Finally, soiled bedding material can be a great source of composted fertilizer for plants, trees and grass.
Straw, from wheat or barley production, is an excellent choice for chicken coop bedding. Straw has great potential to absorb moisture, provide cushion and form compostable bedding that can help keep chickens warm and destroy harmful bacteria. Standlee Premium Western Forage® provides Certified Chopped Straw in convenient plastic bags, with a 10 cubic foot volume. This straw is certified noxious weed free and chopped into 4” pieces to form an even, consistent bedding material.
The next question is, can we make straw bedding material even better? Yes, we can with Standlee Premium Western Forage Flock Fresh® bedding and litter. This product utilizes the same high-quality chopped straw, but it has two important improvements. First, we added “Zeolite” granules. Zeolite is recognized as an environmentally friendly deodorizer and it has been shown scientifically to reduce ammonia in chicken litter (Karamanlis et al., 2008). Zeolite functions to absorb and bind solid particles, liquids and gases from chicken manure in its unique honeycomb structure, decreasing harmful ammonia vapors in the coop. Since Zeolite absorbs water from waste and absorbs ammonia, it prevents the loss of plant available nitrogen, making the composted bedding material an even better fertilizer (Hogg, 2003). Zeolite is also safe for chickens to eat since it functions as a natural method to increase hardness of egg shells. The second improvement that Flock Fresh Bedding includes is chopped alfalfa. The inclusion of chopped alfalfa encourages chickens to peck through and continually turn the bedding material. The turning of the bedding material allows proper composting and destruction of harmful bacteria. The alfalfa is also a great source of protein for egg and meat production. Standlee Premium Western Forage Flock Fresh Bedding is also sold in convenient 10 cubic foot plastic bags.
By Dr. Stephen Duren
Standlee Nutritional Expert - Performance Horse Nutrition
1. Karamanlis, X. (2008). The Effects of a Natural Zeolite (Clinoptilotite) on the Performance of Broiler Chickens and the Quality of Their Litter. (Vol 21, No. 11 : 1642 – 1650)
2. Hogg, LuVerne (2003). Zeolites: Absorbents, Adsorbents.