What is the best bedding?
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.