What is the best bed­ding?

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

QWhat is the most eco­nom­i­cal bed­ding for my hens in their nest boxes? I have heard that hay, which I could get from a friendly farmer, should not be used. Can you give me the pros and cons? Also, can I use it on the floor of the hen-house and, if not, what are the cheap al­ter­na­tives?

AChar­lotte Popescu says: I see no rea­son for you not to use hay in the nest boxes. It is soft and comfy for hens lay­ing eggs and par­tic­u­larly so for a broody hen. I have friends who put hay in the nest boxes and I have used it in the past but chang­ing it reg­u­larly is a good idea to avoid it be­com­ing damp and mouldy. It would be a good idea to sprin­kle di­atoma­ceous earth in the nest boxes as it will in­hibit any fleas or mites. Us­ing hay as lit­ter on the floor of your hen­house is not such a good idea. Hay can be­come damp and har­bour fun­gal spores which could cause res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems. Since we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such a lot of rain, the hay will be­come even more wet than usual, with hens tramp­ing in mud, and will prob­a­bly mat to­gether to form a sort of car­pet. It then be­comes very heavy to muck out. Wet hay can also be a breed­ing ground for the E.Coli bac­terium. Dried leaves that you col­lect in the au­tumn make a great bed­ding for the floor of the hen­house, as long as you have man­aged to store them with­out them get­ting wet. If you then clean out the hutch on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, they will make a good form of com­post. Straw is rel­a­tively cheap to buy as long as you have some­where to store a bale or two and is fine on the floor of the hen house or used in nest boxes. I find shav­ings the least sat­is­fac­tory be­cause they get scat­tered every­where and are more dif­fi­cult to clear up.

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