Your hen’s nesting box is where she should feel safe, enclosed, and comfortable. So comparing all available options on the market to choose the best one for your flock is essential. After all, if your chickens don’t like the nesting box bedding, they’ll find another place to lay their eggs.
Let’s see why this is so important and what types of nesting box bedding there are.
Why use bedding inside a nesting box?
Chickens use nesting boxes solely for laying eggs or brooding. So the type of bedding you use inside the coop isn’t necessarily the best choice for the nesting box.
Be careful to choose the suitable material and ensure it’s kept in place. Soiled, kicked-out, rotten bedding material can cause dirty or cracked eggs, a filthy brooding spot, or pests like mites.
Six reasons why you should use bedding inside the nesting box:
- Prevents eggs from breaking and cracking
- Less dirty eggs
- Warm in the winter months
- Creates a ‘safe haven’ for your hens
- Prevents mites
Let’s start by addressing the most common choices for nesting box bedding and go over them individually.
Most popular bedding materials for a nesting box:
- Wood shavings
- Grass clippings
- Nesting box pads
Any wood shavings, like pine or cedar shavings, are popular choices to put inside a nesting box.
Wood shavings are warm, soft, comfortable, clean, and easy to purchase in farm stores, although they are pricier than straw or hay. Cedar shavings are very popular because of their pleasant aroma and neutralizing effect. The smell also works as a natural insect repellent.
The downside is that the enchanting smell of cedar shavings can irritate the respiratory system of your chickens, albeit a controversial topic. So if you notice some heavy breathing or squeaking, this might not be your ideal solution.
First of all, there’s a difference between hay and straw. They’re not the same. Hay is a crop grown as a feed crop for farm animals. On the other hand, straw is a byproduct of a grain crop and is used as bedding material.
Many hay and non-leafy beddings can be used for a nesting box. But truth be told, there are far better options for nesting box bedding than hay. Hay inside nesting boxes can quickly become messy, and you’ll have to replace the hay regularly. It also attracts mites which can cause health issues in your flock.
Straw is commonly used as bedding for farm animals. In addition to being compostable, it offers comfort, residual warmth, and healthy germ balance. It’s easy to find and cheap to buy. The downsides are its lack of odor control and difficulty in cleaning. The straw will rot after using it for a while and smell. It also needs to be replaced quite often.
Look out for more absorbent varieties, such as oat straw.
When on a tight budget, you can turn to grass clippings as bedding material. They can be used as a bedding material if dried out first. Wet grass clippings begin to molt and rot inside the nesting box.
The clippings must be free of pesticides or lawn fertilizer.
Nesting Box Pads
There are numerous advantages to using nesting box pads instead of loose materials as a bedding option:
- Chickens can’t kick nesting pads out of the nesting box (unlike loose materials)
- Less chance of broken eggs
- Easy to clean or simply throw away
These advantages make nesting box pads our favorite bedding material inside the nesting box. If you want to read an in-depth article comparing all types of nesting box pads, go to our ‘All about nesting box pads‘ post.
Chickens always scratch their feet anywhere, even inside the nesting box. After using straw or wood shavings as bedding for a while, you’ll realize your hens kick out the material by scratching their feet. This results in empty nesting boxes, which leads to higher chances of broken eggs. Broken, freshly laid eggs are more likely to be eaten by the hen. A very hard-to-break habit!
Reusable nesting pads made of plastic or rubber are popular because of their ease of cleaning. You can shake out any loose dirt or hose them down. Reusable nesting pads are also washable.
Another popular nesting pad material is organic bedding like straw, hemp, or aspen. These nesting pads aren’t reusable but must be disposed of (or composted) after use.
What type to use is up to you! Prices of nesting pads are relatively low, so you can try out whichever suits your hens best.
Choosing the right material inside the nesting box is important as you don’t want cracked or dirty eggs. Furthermore, your hens need to feel comfortable and safe when laying eggs, so they also get a say in which material to use. Luckily, all possible options can be purchased almost anywhere and are relatively cheap, so feel free to try out every bedding material until you find the right one!
Credits Featured Image: Kristen Ellison @redbirdranch (IG)