Having bedding in the coop that works for both you and your chickens can make housing them comfortably just that much easier. While the natural inclination may be to go with the most inexpensive and easy to clean up options, there is more to consider than those things alone when choosing bedding. For example, you want something that will go the distance and be pleasant for your chickens without causing any harm to their health.
With various coop bedding coop criteria in mind, there are a few options you can utilize:
1. Shavings are a commonly used type of bedding in coops but they can be a bit of a mixed bag. While shavings do make cleanup easy and provide softness underfoot, it is possible that they can negatively impact the respiratory system of chickens. The smaller the pieces of shavings, the dustier they can be. Small fragments are also easier to stir up, such as when chickens start scratching, and once they become airborne are that much more likely to be inhaled. If you wish to use shavings, stick to those with large pieces and avoid cedar which has proven to contain toxins that can harm chickens. Also be sure not to use sawdust, which can seem similar in appearance to shavings.
2. Straw is just as popular if not more so than shavings. In fact, it seems that straw and shavings are often dueling for the title of preferred bedding. While shavings are somewhat easier to clean up than soiled straw, the two cost about the same in comparison. Straw also smells clean and acts as a great insulator when the time comes to keep cold temperatures at bay. Straw is quick to decompose once used and composted and does not produce the potentially dangerous dust that shavings do.
3. Pine needles (also referred to as pine straw) are yet another decent option. The advantages of pine needles are much the same as with regular straw in terms of insulation and although pine needles do not decompose quite as quickly as straw. There is also the possibility of the pointy ends of pine needles irritating the feet of chickens or being slightly uncomfortable to bed down on if they are not positioned just right.
4. Gaining in popularity is sand due to its ease of clean up. Imagine having a huge litter box that was used by chickens instead of cats and being able to scoop it clean in the same way you would a cat box. While this is convenient, it is important to remember that sand can harbor harmful pathogens that may become a problem for you and your chickens. Sand may also lead to the presence of silicosis and impacted crop if too much is consumed.
The bottom line is that coops should be lined with bedding that is effective at doing its job. Affordability is important, but many bedding options fall in the same price range so choosing the best one should take precedence. Ultimately it may mean sacrificing your own convenience to find the bedding that best works for your chickens but doing what is best for them from the get go is what will be best for everyone in the long run.