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Chicken substrates provide cushion and stability for your chicken's legs and feet. It provides a soft landing for eggs and also helps to keep your coop clean by allowing you to gather droppings quickly.
There are many beddings to choose from and all have pros and cons. It is best to do your research to find out which material would work best for you.
Straw and hay is a good starting material for new owners. It has a sweet earthy smell and springy texture.
Pine is a popular bedding choice and it can be found at most stores. Pine shavings are fast to dry, resilient, and inexpensive.
Cedar Shavings are known for their pleasant aroma. It is easy to find in stores and works as a natural insect repellant.
Though a more expensive choice, sand only needs to be replaced once or twice a year. It is great for outdoor runs that are exposed to the elements. Sand doesn't break down, dries fast, and is great for dust baths.
Grass can be used as a bedding option if you have enough of it. Be aware that grass clippings tend to retain moisture and break down quickly. They will also dry up, shrink, and start to smell. Be careful that the clippings didn't come from a yard sprayed with chemicals.
Leaves can be used if they are finely shredded., therefor quick to dry. Whole leaves stick together and hold moisture. Wet leaves are slippery and can cause injuries.
Recycled paper such as shredded office paper and newspaper are a free bedding option. Be cautious though as ink can be toxic to chickens.