Why Your Backyard Chickens Will Love Sand

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Sand is the answer to an obsessive person’s dreams. Close your eyes and imagine: Beautifully manicured chicken feet (free of poo), zen garden furrows on the ground, and everything staying in its place instead of blowing around whenever a wing is flapped. Imagine walking in and smelling… nothing. Sand in the coop, my dear readers, is the answer.

Sand is becoming a very common coop bedding and it's easy to see why. Sand has so many benefits and when used properly, I think it's a bedding that you wont regret using.

I started last spring using sand in the coop and run. The birds had decimated the lawn leaving treacherous mud in its wake. Getting to the water station without slipping in the muck was becoming an Olympic feat. As usual, I turned to BackYardChickens.com. People were singing the praises of using sand to help with drainage and to replace more traditional bedding options.

Traditional bedding can be a nightmare in a run because it is exposed to the elements. It can get soggy, moldy, or just smell terrible. The sand suffers none of those problems. There are, however, things you must do so that your sand performs well.

Choosing the Right Sand

Type

It should be sand that has various sizes mixed in. Bank run or construction sand are great choices. All Purpose will work if that’s all you have access to. Playsand and sandbox sand floats and you will regret using it. You’ll want to buy dry sand. If you purchase it wet it will take a while to dry out.

Depth

A thin layer will not give you the results you want. Poo will shift below to the ground and stink to high heaven. In the coop, you can get away with 3-4″ so long as the coop is raised off the ground with a plywood or a lined floor. If your coop floor is the ground or you are putting sand in an enclosed run, 6-8″ deep is ideal for drainage. If your coop is in an area that tends to be boggy/soggy, 2-3″ of gravel laid down before adding sand can make a world of difference.

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Like any bedding option, neglected bedding can cause health issues for your birds. Proper cleaning is important to your birds’ health.

Even More Pros

In addition to the “pros” already mentioned, here are a few more reasons to choose sand:

  • Cost-effective. For anywhere from $10-$20 you can get an entire truckload of sand from a quarry.
  • Creates a natural dust bath area and provides all the grit you could need. That’s two less things you need to worry about.
  • Stays dry. It quickly dries poo and doesn’t retain moisture so you don’t need to worry about mold or bugs.
  • Stays cool in the summer, even during the biggest heat waves. It also preserves heat in the winter.
  • Conserves feed. Pelleted feed stays on the surface and can easily be found by hungry birds.
  • Makes composting easy!  No bedding that needs to be broken down.
  • Is aesthetically pleasing.  You can even create a nice zen garden feel (though the birds may not appreciate your efforts and destroy it quickly).
  • Reduces the chances of frostbite during the winter because there is no moisture to build up.

Because of all the great results in the run, I added sand to the coop as well. No more tracking bedding in and out of the house. I even sprinkle some on the poop trays for easy sifting.

Maintenance

A modified stall rake makes a giant kitty litter scoop. Just use zip ties to attach some hardware cloth.

Maintenance is super easy too! A modified stall rake makes a great sand sifter. Just use zip ties to attach some 1/4″ hardware cloth. Once a year I completely clean out the coop and add new sand. Twice a year I add some pelletized lime or Sweet PDZ to the run and refresh any lost sand in the run. In the winter I throw in some ash from the fireplace and in the summer I sprinkle in some DE.

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That’s it!

Sand in the Brooder

Sand works great in a brooder as well. It hold the heat so the chicks stay warm and it doesn't get tracked into the water dishes (quite as easily).

Sand works great in a brooder as well. It holds the heat so the chicks stay warm and it doesn’t get tracked into the water dishes (quite as easily). Sand also acts as a grit for the chicks, so you can offer them treats without worrying about binding.

Because sand can cause impaction in tiny chicks, it is wise to wait for two or three days after hatch before using it. This will give the chicks time to figure out what and where food is. Often I will set up the brooder with sand before the chicks arrive and simply lay paper towels over it for the first few days. Once it seems like the chicks have figured things out, I’ll remove the paper towels. You can see how I set up my brooder for all our poultry.

Have you tried sand in your chicken coop or run? What did you think?

Sand is becoming a very common coop bedding and it's easy to see why. Sand has so many benefits and when used properly, I think it's a bedding that you won't regret using.

For more livestock tips and tricks, be sure to subscribe to The Homestead Helper. I share my animal experiences and so much more approximately once a week.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

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About Jessica Lane

I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

Comments

Why Your Backyard Chickens Will Love Sand — 139 Comments

  1. We have cats (who are frankly scared of the chickens) and are worried about them treating a sand-filed coop as a litter box. Anyone have an experience either way, with this?

  2. Diatomaceous Earth only works as long as it doesn’t get wet. I’ve also heard it should not be used in the bedding because it can be inhaled by the chickens and cause respiratory problems.

  3. I just entered into backyard chicken project over the summer. We set up our coop in a grassy, half-shaded corner of the yard and surrounded it with a tall chicken wire fence and a netting top over the entire pen. Didn’t take long for the grass to disappear and we started covering the ground area with mulch and/or hay but the chickens were constantly moving it all off to the side. We now have sand running along one side of the pen and straw/hay on the other side. We also put sand on top of the coop since the girls like to fly & perch on the roof which absorbs their droppings and makes clean up a breeze with a small rake. I never have any problems with bugs or odor. We keep sand inside the coop as well which drys up their poop and again, easy to clean out and no odor.

  4. I have been putting sand in my chicken runs for the last 10 years have never had any problems use a litter box cleaner for cleaning

  5. Hi Jessica
    I have 10 chickens. I have been using sand in coop since spring. Have a bug problem now and may need to change or wash sand. How does debris from sand get washed away and sand remain?? coop is 10 x 12( way to big) Sand is delivered wet, now that we are first week of November not sure it would dry. In northern Indiana, temps now about 60… not too sunny ….would you recommend washing buggy sand?
    maybe if i spread sand thin on tarps??? Don’t want to switch to shaving now…….
    Thank you!

  6. I just purchased new bedding, but may try this as an alternative here in northern Wisconsin. Luckily, I have a gravel pit about 1/4 mile down the road I have free access to, which has a very large sand deposit.

  7. what do you mean by

    In the coop you can get away with 3-4″ so long as it’s not placed right on the ground

    where am i meant to place it then in the air lol

    • LOL, I can understand why that might be confusing. Some coops are placed directly right on the ground (often with a dirt floor). I was referring to coops that are raised off the ground. For example, my coop has 6″ blocks under it and has a wooden floor.

  8. I am a new chicken owner of 10 hens and a bantam rooster. I chose to try sand after reading your posts and others. I love it!!! Low odors in coop and in the run. No fly problem since the sand dries the poo fast and clean ups are easy and quick. I did put down gravel first to help drainage in the run. Thanks for all your information and sharing.

  9. I have a green house 10×10. I have been thinking about turning it into a chicken coop. I only want three or four hens. My question is it has a floor made of lava rock would that be okay. This will be my first attempt at this and very excited to get started. Thanks for any advice

  10. I put sand in our coop about a month ago (after reading this article and others). I love it! I also added a droppings board, so very little poo gets onto the floor since my chickies spend all day free-ranging. I haven’t had any problems so far and am enjoying a less smelly coop and the money savings of not having to buy bedding!

  11. What do you do with the sand, compost or garbage? Do you have to clean all the sand out once or twice a year or just add more sand to it? Is landscape/paver sand acceptable? We have a company that sells sand but when I asked for construction or river sand they weren’t sure what I needed (and neither do I, lol). Also, do you add DE to the sand? Should it be mixed in or sprinkled on top? How do you know how much to use? Thanks in advance! All advice is Welcome!!

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