You Made Your Bed

Many of us who have begun this wonderful life by involving poultry into it have started off with the small starter coop, which after a year and chicken math begins will be transformed into a larger coop or become the introduction pen for new chicks for the following years to come. When we begin this journey, we are always making lists!

Those lists may entail

● Coop

● Bedding

● Feed

● Water and feed bowls or canisters

● Heating supplies for chicks and seasons to come

● Toys and treats

Well, I am here today to talk about bedding! What bedding is going to be best for your flock, as well as for you in cleaning and smell. There are a lot of types of bedding so we are going to cover the health benefits, cleaning aspect and smell for your flock. After all, we don’t want to use a bedding that is going to stink to high heaven and notify the hawks and racoons to your birds’ beautiful home. We will be discussing shavings, straw, sand, coffee grounds, and good old nature (grass clippings and fallen leaves).

When shopping for our supplies we usually hit the big box places, why not? They have it all! So, while shopping we hit the aisle of bedding.


Shavings are what they use in the bins when you have chicks. Personally, I contact our local news writers and ask for any old additions they could donate to my flock for new chicks, we usually leave with a box full. It is always nice to lay this down then roll the pine shavings up to throw away. Now though, after 6 years I will never touch shavings again and this is why. Shavings are easy to clean out of a tote or whatever you choose to keep your baby chicks in, but be cautious when purchasing them. Good shavings at some locations are kept outside or housed outside in sheds or under lean-tos; make sure it is housed inside. If you live where humidity can be an issue, please keep in mind mites. We don’t usually think about these bugs when purchasing bedding, but it is definitely a main source of them. Some pine shavings are processed through a kiln drying process and this will kill any mites and eggs that may be harboring on the shavings, but it makes them very toxic to your flock and other animals on the homestead if ingested. Chickens and turkeys and game fowl can and do easily break down the wood pieces while eating, which is also why it breaks down so quickly. It is honestly my biggest complaint while using shavings. I have a flock size of 40+ chickens and 40+ ducks with a few turkey and guinea fowl. I will throw 3 bags of pine shavings down and within a week I will have powder almost. While shopping at our local pet store, a kind woman overheard me complaining and that is when I found out about the kiln drying process. It can cause respiratory issues and shut down organs on your birds. It is impossible to not have your flock ingest what is used on the floor in their home. Some farmers call pine shavings the secret killer to flocks! Pine shavings also can not be used in compost due to the kiln process. If it is fresh mulch from a tree, this can be used in the coop, as well as in the garden compost (but watch for mites). Needless to say, we do not touch pine shavings on our homestead.


Cedar shavings smell amazing!! Don’t you agree? It makes everything feel fresh and clean, but if you have a homestead let’s think twice about this one too. Cedar wood chips have been known to damage the liver and respiratory tracts in small animals and guess what else? POULTRY! The closer to the ground the more exposed to the natural oils in cedar wood that cause the respiratory issues. When searching for food or bugs the chickens will peck through the bedding which will cause the issue with the liver. Their liver is unable to process these oils and it can kill a chicken easily within months of using, sometimes weeks. SO, NO CEDAR!! If you want something that smells amazing, then this next one will be for you.


I was going to discuss straw or sand, but I am going to discuss COFFEE GROUNDS! So many of us love the smell of coffee grounds and there are companies that make Decaf processed and grinded coffee grounds for bedding. I personally have never used this. I have heard amazing things in some chicken groups and this is the first year I even heard of it. So, I took the liberty of scooting down to a local shop and checked it out! Coffee grounds that are not decaffeinated though are toxic to your chickens, dogs, cats, and livestock. Caffeine is known as a chemical known as Methylxanthine and because its levels are so high it is toxic to our feather and fur babies. The companies that make it into bedding use 100% recycled coffee grounds that contain no caffeine so that it is safe in case ingested. The only negative thing I have heard about this product is that if the inside of your coop is damp a lot or has leaks where it is constantly getting wet, it has the potential to mold. So, avoid wet and humid places. Coffee ground bedding helps repel flies and keeps your coop smelling fabulous. It is easy to shovel or to use a litter scoop to clean the areas concentrated with poop. If you do use this or try it, share it with people! How cool is it that we have something that smells so amazing available for our little feather butts!


Straw! This is the most commonly used, it is actually what I currently have in the coop. Since we have so many ducks, I am questioning this choice. They poop A LOT! So, I am out rotating my straw every other day and I use Wondercide Lemongrass Spray to reduce the smell and flies. Straw is cheap, roughly $4 a bale, one bale covers a decent amount of area, and it is GREAT FOR YOUR GARDEN! That’s right! Chicken poop and duck poop work much better in compost than livestock manure, holding higher levels or nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Instead of throwing it away, you can add the straw into your garden. It’s basically a new form of gold. The only negative side to straw is that it can be sprayed with pesticides when grown in large fields. Whether it be through cross wind contamination or just what the farmer ordered, it’s in the soil and on the straw. So always be aware of this. If you can purchase organic straw you are blessed. I have heard of brands, but take a sneak peak online and see what you come across. OR if you have an indoor greenhouse, feel free to grow some for your flock’s bedding.


Oh Sandy, Oh Sandy sand… you are so sandy! This is a wonderful bedding to use if you are someone who doesn’t like to completely remove all of the bedding inside the coop. With a litter scoop on the end of a broom stick it is easy to sift through and clean. It also works well to drain soil from the wet areas in your coop. it can also help level your coop from dust baths. It does tend to create a great environment for mites and fleas though! The best suggestion for this is to add First Saturday Lime to your sand and coop regularly. They will appreciate it as well as you because it will keep the smell down. This can be added with all bedding but please do use it with the sand. I promise you will thank me later when it’s 90 degrees and while on your patio you don’t smell chicken or duck poop.


The last one to discuss is good old nature’s grass clippings and old leaves. We all know if the grass clippings are wet and you put too many in one clump it can mold, same with old leaves. Just be careful and just spread it thin to dry then repeat every other day. Flip to keep it from molding in the coop. It is one of nature’s options, it can create a home for bugs, so spread lime down first. I love this bedding especially if you choose or are unable to allow your flock to free range. Grass is wonderful for their digestive tract and can add more nutrients to eggs as well as leaves. Plant-based foods and remains work great for our flocks because they are full of probiotics and digestive enzymes. Feeds are nice enough to add it in, like my personal favorite NatureServe Layer Pellets. With grass clippings and leaves, the chickens can eat as much as they want and it will never hurt them, only benefit them. Just remember to flip it after it rains to keep it dry. After a while it will turn into dirt, which means if you are not in the mood to add it to the coop, just add it to the compost pile.


So! Think, think, think… what will your next bedding be? I recommend trying a few different ways to complete your idea of what you feel is best. If you have not tried it, please do not knock it, we all have our reasons why we do what we do for our flocks. Let me know and keep me posted on what you all decided! And MIX N MATCH! I bet coffee ground bedding would work great with sand, and smell so amazing.

Talk Soon, Amanda B.

Published by Amanda B.

Our family homestead began 6 years ago when we decided to buy a home in the country in the beautiful state of Michigan. I was on a mission to have it all but no idea where to begin. So, our dream house found us! I know, I know, that doesn’t sound right, but it did! An older gentleman that shopped at our local pet food store had approached my family about having a home for sale and once we saw it, we knew there was no way we could get approved for the amount he was asking. BUT this man was an angel disguised as a human here on earth. We called him up and he met our daughter (my mother’s 1st of 3 grandbabies) and when I explained to him the sad news he simply said, “I have known your family for a long time, your mother worked at my kennel and holds a piece of my heart and I do not care how much you get approved for. I want that little girl (pointing to my dear Abby who was 6 months old) to have a forever home. When you get approved by a loan company come find me and buy my home.” With tears of joy and tears of so much weight being lifted off my shoulders I hugged him with the biggest and hardest hug I could gather up and we went through the home buying process. 6 years later, I am here in this very home to share my love for poultry and homesteading. That entire step of homesteading started with chickens! We have always been in love with animals and nutrition is my number one priority for my animals. My family’s business is Holistic Pet Store, feeding raw, dehydrated raw and the finest foods for pets and holistic and homeopathic supplements for people and pets. We take nutrition to a different level. So, finding a poultry feed that fit in was my task and I was up for the job. I of course brought in organic, soy free, and even things to add such a safflowers and sunflower seeds, but as my family grew, this $48 per bag of feed for 30+ poultry was not in the budget plan. We went from a family of 3 and a couple dogs and chickens to a family of 5, 4 dogs, 7 cats, 3 guinea pigs, 20 rabbits, 4 goats, 2 cows, 30+ chickens, 20+ ducks, 3 turkeys and 1 pig. So, I took my knowledge of feed and started fermenting everything. (I’ll explain this process to you soon in another blog post, it will blow your mind!!!) Every animal’s feed had been fermented and costs were minimized tremendously and it seemed as though nothing could go wrong…but it did. The Words that Changed Everything When Evie my 3rd beautiful baby girl came into our world, my job was on hold which meant my money used to pay for the animals’ feed was no longer available. Things became solely on my husband’s shoulders. He was prepared and had budgeted for most of it, but money just seemed to disappear. So, we did what it was time to do. We sent the cows for butcher and rented the goats out for parties and events, and cut costs where we could. Which sadly meant buying the cheapest feed. We did the usual big box store brands. We thought this cannot be too bad and everything will be fine. The first few months everything was okay but we slowly noticed our chickens lost their shiny feathers and softness. They even had weaker immune systems and we had lost chickens more than we ever had the years prior. We had no sign of Avian Influenza, but we had chickens dying at random moments for no reason. I truly felt it couldn’t get worse and then I started cracking eggs and the yolks were gray, the beautiful orange yolks dwindled to flavorless, bland grays and pale yellows. At this time, I felt like the odds were against us and was about to sell everything I owned and when I was able to work, I would start up with a new flock. The next day we had our wonderful truck driver from our distributor, John A. Van Den Bosch, come in. When I told him the news and was to my wits end, he said the magic words that changed everything, “Have you ever heard of NatureServe?” At first, I thought to myself maybe, then quickly realized I never had. He told me about the company and how Van Den Bosch carries them and that he truly feels it is the perfect fit for what I am looking for. When I looked them up, by golly-gee he was right! NatureServe was everything I was looking for, they used fermented probiotics and digestive enzymes and ESSENTIAL OILS. Combined, it was an immune system booster created by man with 100% of natures bounty. I was blown away. HOW DID I MISS THIS! I am sure if you are reading this you may think I am kind of crazy but let me fill you in on a life of one of my chickens. They receive fresh water every other day with essential oils in it to help prevent respiratory issues, as well as keep the immune system stable. They have free access 24/7 to almost 200 pounds of feed that is mixed with safflower and sunflower seeds. As a treat we chose fermented broccoli sprouts or flaxseed sprouts. They have almost 11 acres of grass and wild herbs and flowers to rummage through and a medium sized pond to find some yummy tadpoles, baby frogs, and crickets to eat. But when winter hit, it was fermented sprouts and feed they relied on the most. To find an affordable but not breaking the bank food that fit my lifestyle and ethics was hard until that magical day I was introduced to NatureServe. NatureServe is a company based on family and faith. They use the highest quality ingredients while going above and beyond with what they are putting in their feed. For example, they use: Fermented pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your flock’s digestive tract Flaxseed for a safe form of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber Alfalfa, THIS ONE I LOVE! Reduces seasonal depression in chickens, helps hens lay all winter or during a usual off season, and is an amazing protein source Diatomaceous Earth is a natural de-wormer, and with its main ingredient being silica it will help give your poultry a healthy heart Marigold may be the best ingredient added to this feed! Marigolds help the skin’s ability to heal faster as well as reduces eye infections from even starting. This flower is also a natural anti inflammatory which is wonderful for chickens that free range on several acres all day Oregano and Thyme to support immune system The feeds are produced through Belstra Milling in DeMotte, Indiana. With NatureServe’s ingredients being the safest and the healthiest, I know what I am putting into my flock is of the highest quality. After all, don’t we do this so we can feed our families the healthiest meat? As a homesteader we use the whole chicken. The chicken’s meat is for food, the bones and certain organs are used in stocks and broths. Why feed a food that is destroying an animal’s immune system when you can feed a layer that can excel your poultry’s life and not only improve their way of living but your own. What change came since being on NatureServe Stronger flocks Longer egg laying duration Strong shells No issues with blocked eggs or eggs breaking inside the chicken due to optimal nutrition Golden orange yolks Healthy chicks, poults, and ducklings Nutritionally satisfied poultry (no aggression due to lack of nutrition or hunger) Beyond beautiful feathers and colors I can’t wait to touch base on more topics with you! Keep your eyes peeled for more fun blogs by yours truly, Amanda B.