After reading on The-chicken-chick.com that sand makes a good bedding or “litter” for coops (see the blog post here) and chicken yards, I decided to give it a try.
We’ve always used pine shavings. But I’d find myself going through a half bale every three weeks or so, and putting a large amount of chicken waste and shavings in the compost pile. We were running out of room. Plus, it just didn’t seem to stay clean and tidy for very long.
We scraped out all of the shavings (when K built the coop, he put down an industrial grade vinyl tile that makes it very easy to clean). K calculated how much sand we could put on the floor of the coop based on weight. There are times when it comes in handy to have an engineering type in the family. He determined how much sand would weigh per square foot and magically calculated that the coop floor would handle a 2-inch depth of sand just fine.
We used construction grade sand (not the fine sandbox grade). It wasn’t dusty, and immediately felt cleaner somehow. We use a fine tine small rake to lightly rake the droppings from the sand. Instead of about two cubic feet of waste going to compost, we’re putting about a garden shovel full – maybe about four cubic inches – into the bins. It works beautifully. It keeps the girls’ feet and toenails cleaner. We thought it was a great solution.
The next morning, the hens seemed to have forgotten that they walked on the sand to get to their roosts the night before. They typically hop down in the morning as quickly as they can. But when K opened the coop door the morning after the litter change, they seemed to think that someone had filled their coop with dangerous quicksand.
(I'll attempt to post a video here... ) The big hens look down and shift around on their roost. They aren't sure what to do. The little hens are afraid to hop out of the nesting boxes, and Betty Boop, the Polish Crested, paces back and forth on her perch and looks bewildered by this sudden shift in footing (I think Bewildered is her middle name). All were highly suspicious. Once coaxed out with a treat, they made the leap into the unknown, and have grown accustomed to the sandy surface now. All the droppings from the night before were easily scooped up in a few minutes, and their coop was tidy again.
And in case you wondered... Chickens do look before they leap.