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Why Your Backyard Chickens Will Love Sand

If you’re new to chickens, you might be wondering what to put on the floor of a chicken coop. There are a lot of great options out there, but I have a personal favorite.

Using sand in the chicken coop 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, 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 using sand in the chicken coop and run in 2013. 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, like pine shavings, 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

Can I use play sand in my chicken coop?

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.

How deep does the sand need to be in the coop and run?

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.

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 for your chicken coop:

  • 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.


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 (diatomaceous earth).

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? For more great information on raising laying hens, check out our ultimate guide.

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.

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  1. One more benefit to using sand besides that the chickens love to dust bath in it, get daily pedicures and mites don’t like sand, is that since it is so good and absorbing moisture and drying, it does not harbor bacteria the way pine shavings and ESPECIALLY hay and straw do. If, for instance, you are have a lot of trouble with bumble foot or coccidiosis then consider using sand to reduce the bacterial load in the coop and run.

    1. I had planned to use sand, but then was informed on a facebook chicken lover page, that sand is bad because it holds e-coli and can freeze and lead to frozen feet in the colder months… I swear, every single piece of advice is both approved and disapproved by everyone. No one agrees on anything pertaining to raising chickens. Makes it all very confusing.

  2. Barbed Wire says:

    This is a great addition tips blog sand in chicken coop, thank you for sharing this article. I love it how you have written the insightful, all these landscaping ideas with gabion walls and solid granite paving is great. Do check out this Dukeswiremesh.com, it has some great and nice ideas to look for.

  3. We recently got chicks who have just gone into their coop (they’re now 9 wks). I’ve been using pine shavings since we got them at a few days old. Am seriously considering the sand. I called our local quarry today – the guy said to ask for Grade B sand (and it’s limestone) – I guess this is good – I have no idea.

    1. We use contractor sand. Probably the same thing as grade b. It’s not play sand. We get ours at Lowe’s. 900 lbs is about $35.

    2. I called a rock company and asked for River sand. Your sand should be very course with rocks. It’s heavier and doesn’t displace when walked on. Bagged sand isn’t.

  4. Stephanie johnson says:

    I was curious how you keep the ammonia smell down in your coop with sand. I’ve been using sand in my coop which is a converted horse stall and it been hard to keep the ammonia smell down. I use catch trays under the roosts clean them daily and I’ve been turning the sand adding pdz but I’m still having no luck.

    1. Why sand? Do the deep litter system. no smell, cost effective, healthy, beautiful compost in the end, not much work.

    2. Use hemp it’s a great product in coop area and sand in their run area.

  5. With sand in the pen/run, how do you shovel snow off of it in the winter without removing the sand?

    1. Instead of shoveling make trails out of hay. The hay has bits to scratch and eat and it encourages the chickens to out walking. No shoveling involved.

    2. You need to cover your run in the winter! Chickens should be shielded from the snow. They can get frost bite!

  6. Awesome article! Thank you for the great suggestions! A couple of my bfs helped me rebuild a used playhouse. We converted it into the “Coop de la Poop”! It’s awesome! I already dropped some Koop Clean on the floor, although we did create a sandbox under their roosts! It never occurred to me to use it throughout!!???
    So… anyway, after reading your article,I’ll remove the Koop Clean and get enough sand to cover the castle floor (10×12)!!
    Aaaand… I’ll be using sand in the sweet lil nesting boxes we set up!!
    So happy to read your article & subscribe!
    Thank you!!

  7. sharon edwards says:

    I live in Florida and sand is what my whole property consists of. I used sand in the coop and pine shavings in the house and boxes.
    I never have any odor and clean my coop with a poop scoop. The claw kind. Pick up the leavings and the sand sifts through. I use a dust pan and brush for cleaning the shavings. Clean, happy chickens and easy for me.
    Alot easier than picking up after my Great Dane.

    1. Can you use the sifted poop in your Garden with some sand sticking to it?

      1. I have a black gumbo and the sand is a good addition to the garden

  8. Hi Jessica, This was a very useful article for me since my husband and I are in the process of building our house in Maine and hope to be in it in a few months. One of my first homesteading builds will be a chicken coop which is a must because I can’t eat store bought eggs anymore. Someone told my husband it could be that the feed has soy in it and I may be sensitive to it. My question is will this work where there is a lot of ledge underneath, do you think we’ll need a layer of gravel as suggested.

    1. Victoria K Michaels says:

      Great article. Just what I needed to know. I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you.

  9. thuoc ga da says:

    Chicken raising is a very interesting job, I find your article very interesting.

  10. Christine Mantwill says:

    Thanks for all of the great info! I am also a new(er) chicken owner. We had bantams years ago, but never did so much research as for this endeavor. We are having a new coop with outdoor run delivered in a couple of weeks and then the chicks will be coming shortly after. We plan on keeping the chicks inside for a few weeks while they are babies, but will move them to the coop when they are big enough. Thoughts on bedding in the coop for them while they are younger? I love the idea of the sand for easy cleanup, etc., but read what you said about them when they are young. Should I do hay or straw to start them out and then switch to the sand? I live in PA, so colder weather is coming (sadly) – so that will play a part in bedding for cold days/nights. Appreciate your info and reply!!

  11. Thank you for the post! Can you comment on what adding the wood Ash does???
    Thank you!

    1. The wood ash helps them keep free of mites and fleas. 🙂

  12. I was wondering, have you changed your mind on recommending using sand since this article was originally posted? I thought of using sand in the coop, but was told it can get stuck in the bird’s crop.

    What do you think?

    1. Anonymous says:

      I am DEFINITELY trying sand in my coop!! Thanks

    2. I looked at this website and her reasoning for not using sand makes no sense. She said no chickens live close to a beach so they wouldn’t come in contact with sand. I live in North Central Florida and own chickens, I can tell you the entire state of Florida is made of sand. We don’t have dirt, here only sand. We also have bugs and earthworms and everything else my chickens love to eat when they are free ranging in my yard. While I do put hay down in their coop and in their nesting boxes, there is sand under the hay. They move the hay and use the sand for their dust baths and they use it as their grit. They don’t just eat the sand to eat sand, they get some while eating bugs and when they spill their food on the ground and peck at it. I’m not for or against only using sand in a coop, but if you want to have reasons why you shouldn’t they need to be better than chickens aren’t around sand.

      1. Thank you, I am in on the central west coast 1 mile from the beach and I like the sand idea. We have our first chickens in our trough and will put them in the coop soon. This article was a big help as was your comments from a fellow Floridian.

      2. We have been using sand in our chickens coops and nesting areas . It is working out great. The eggs stay a lot cleaner and their run areas stay a lot cleaner.

      3. Dont use sand because chickens arent at the beach..? That is the stupidest reason ever, how could she even say that seriously.

  13. We live in South Texas and I have also used 3-4 inches sand over a dirt floor for many years. We take our trailer and load up at least a yard; need to add to it about 2x/year and sift it. Throw the poo out into your compost pile or turn it into your garden soil. The reason I like it is that it drains real well (coop on higher ground helps) and it doesn’t “cling” to you or the birds. When dry they can use it to dust themselves. My brother-in-law had used mortar sand to create a large camp site on the back of their property for family campfires, cookouts, etc and I learned to really appreciated how when my granddaughter would sit in it and bury her legs up to the hips in the sand (2 yo) it would just brush right off. It didn’t cling to her. Bank sand has too much clay in it. Play sand has its issues. Mortar sand works great for us.

  14. Susan Hoy says:

    I live in eastern Canada and I too have been using sand in the coop for over a year now. We love it! Clean up is a breeze (less than 10 minutes every few days) and no more work then the cat’s litter box. Some temperatures this winter went down to -20 and the sand did not even freeze! (we also have a raised floor off the ground) Covering around the bottom of the coop created a vacuum of warm air. That couples with the sand, I think, aided in keeping the coop warmer over winter. As we have a thermometer in the coop, it never got below 0 degrees, even at the -20 days! So both the sand and the covering worked as intended!

    For the run,we decided to forgo the muddy mess (after the grass was gone) so we tried a 1-2 inch layer of pea stone instead. Love this concept also… I just go out every few days and spray down the whole area with a hose. The drainage and the run off slope of the area of the run work perfectly for this concept. As well, in the hot days of the summer, watering down the pea stones can cool the coop area more then 10 degrees! And my girls don’t mind it at all!

    Myself and the girls are anxiously awaiting spring!

  15. What is the lime for?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      It counteracts the ammonia and cuts down on odor. It also helps balance the pH of the sand.

      1. what do you use in the nesting boxes?

      2. Construction Sand has glass in it. That’s why you cant use it in a sand box. Any ideas on this? I am going to try sand in my new coop.

  16. 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?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      My cat is petrified of the chickens, so we haven’t had any problems.

  17. 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.

    1. That statement regarding DE is inaccurate. Diane the Earth is used in swimming pool filters as it filters smaller debris than sand. I’ve used DE for 10+ years in my pool filter as an additive and it works great. Needless to say, it’s always wet!

      1. Tiarra L Nelson says:

        She is not incorrect. The DE in this case is not being used as a filter and as such is rendered useless with humidity rain ect over the course of a few days to weeks. If it WAS being used to filter you would be correct but because its not your point is invalid.

      2. arent you supposed to use the food grade not pool kind

  18. ANITA DOBBINS says:

    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.

  19. I won’t find dry sand at this fine of the year, would you still go buy a truck load?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’d wait until you can get it delivered dry. It just makes life easier to get it dry versus having to dry it before use.

  20. Anonymous says:

    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

    1. What kind of sand do you use?

  21. 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!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Janet, what kind of bugs are you dealing with? It may be easier to treat the sand than it is to wash it. Diatomaceous Earth will work on most bugs, but if that’s not strong enough they have Garden & Poultry Dust. I don’t love the garden and poultry stuff because it’s not 100% natural (it’s a chemically enhanced natural product), but it is effective.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      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.

      1. Jessica, thanks for this super helpful blog. Forgive my ignorance, but is the floor of the coop itself wooden – in which case is it treated and does the sand sit directly on top – or do the blocks sit underneath it? We are looking to create a coop-and-run and trying to work out if a concrete base with sand and perhaps with gravel. What I can’t understnd is where the drainage goes when at the bottom of the sand/gravel/wooden floor – do outlets need to be created? Thanks. 🙂

        1. Anonymous says:

          I would love to use sand, but in my local area it would cost $500 (I checked) to put 3″ of sand in our 10’x16′ run ?

  24. Dawn Beavers says:

    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.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You are so welcome! Glad to hear it’s working for you.

  25. 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

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I don’t know enough about the consistency of lava rock to say one way or another. Does it drain well? Is it dusty?

  26. 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!

  27. 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!!

    1. I also tried to find construction sand and no one knew what I was talking about. ?

      1. Debbie Gage says:

        If you call a local sand & gravel pit they should know exactly what you need. They supply all sorts of construction sites and would be able to fill your truck or deliver to your site.

  28. Patricia Lambert says:

    Can I use sand and small pebbles from my downhill river for the chicken coop/dust bath? Yes the water s so clean and my tap water is spring water with minerals from our well. We live Vermont. 🙂 or do I have to buy sterilized sand from the store for my new 5 weeks old RIR baby chicks? Thank you for any advices’ yourvtpal

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      That should work just fine.

  29. Kelly Estabrooks says:

    I am new to chickens, so I am definitely learning as I go. I have 8 chickens and 2 ducks. Our coop is raised with a linoleum covered wood floor and I am currently using hay. The coop leads to a large covered run. We placed large stone, topped with gravel, topped with sand. Our 2 ducks are currently using this space until their separate run is complete. I am noticing that the sand is staying very wet (because of the ducks). I have been unable to scoop the poo, so I have been raking it in. I have noticed a mildew smell. Is the sand meant to remain dry and is scooping preferred to raking it in? Can I remove the hay from the coop and place sand over the linoleum floor?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Raking in isn’t a great idea because it can cause some stink issues if done too often. You’re better off sacrificing a bit of the sand and using a small shovel to remove the poo while the ducks are in there. As far as the coop, you can certainly use sand in there as well. That’s what we do.

  30. Nancy Powell says:

    Hi Jessica!

    I have a new coop and run and I have read all the great things about sand, so I am going to use it. I went to Lowe’s yesterday, and they had different kinds of sand. They had play sand, which everyone says, do not use. They had one called All Purpose in a 50 # bag. Is that the correct one to get? If so, we are going to get about ten bags to start and see how it all goes. Thank you so much for your time!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      All Purpose works well. I’m not sure how big your coop is, but in the future it might be cheaper to get your sand from a quarry.

  31. lesterkinpdx says:

    I’ve had 6 chickens for just over a year now and sand has worked very very well. It’s easy to clean the tray below roosts (cat litter scooper). The sand absorbs moisture from the droppings so scooping is a breeze and there is very little smell. I scoop almost every morning and it takes 2-3 minutes max. I also have sand in the nesting boxes. 95% of the time the eggs are very clean and the chickens rarely poop in the boxes. The sand stays cool in the summer and absorbs the body heat of the chickens so stays warmer in the cool weather (Portland, OR). Excessive dust has not been a problem nor has excessive odor.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      So glad to hear it’s working out well for you 🙂

    2. I live near Portland. Would you mind sharing where you bought the sand?


      1. Jessica Lane says:

        I got mine from K&W in Bridgton.

      2. Anonymous says:

        Also from Portland, you can buy sand by the yard for $30 at any bark dust yard or most nurseries have it, a lot of the sand for huge concrete projects around the country comes from Portland Oregon out of the willamette river “rose city sand” a full pickup load is 2 yards about $60

    3. Katie Smith says:

      I was wondering about mixing DE with the sand in the coop? Is that a good idea? I have a chicken tractor with a raised coop and run. I was thinking of using sand in the coop with DE and putting PDZ in the rum. I will move the run about every week or so. I will have six chickens in the area. What do you think?
      Thanks so much
      Katie S

  32. Hortencia Lambert says:

    I have two hens and my coop has a dirt ground. When it rains it gets really muddy in there. What can I put in the pen to help so my girls can stay dry. I have hay all over the ground, that help a little bit but I know there other things that I can do. Need your advice on how to do it better. I am a first time chicken lover. Thank you for your support.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Hay is one of those things that puts a bandaid on the problem, but can make the end result even worse (cleaning up all that soggy hay – not fun). 2-3″ of gravel with sand on top should offer you a permanent solution.

  33. Tina Butcher says:

    I have a coop that has a concrete floor – Would I just put the sand on top of the concrete or would I put down gravel first? My run is dirt so would I put gravel first or just the sand?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I would recommend adding gravel to both. It won’t do any harm if you add it and it’s not needed. It’s a headache to add it after the fact if you are having drainage issues.

  34. I’ve recently moved and am building a new coop, Previously I used straw in the coop and run . What is the best for a run/coop straw, pine shavings in the coop only , sand ? Thanks

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I personally love sand for all of it. It makes cleanup a breeze.

  35. I am just building my coop! I will have a wood floor and then want to lay down linoleum with sand on top. Will this be ok? Also in my runs should I do all sand with no grass? I thought they’d eat the grass??? I’m new to chickens so bear with me please!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Linoleum is wise if you have a wood floor. It will protect it from rotting. As far as the run, the chickens will happily eat the grass, but once it’s gone it will be gone forever. That will leave you with a rock solid mucky base. I’d let them eat the grass, but plan to put sand down once the grass is gone.

      1. new to chickens…. we are building a run with bare ground. There is some grass. Is it best once chick are big enough to leave brooder, to let them eat the grass or start with sand over the dirt and grass?

      2. Julie Coates says:

        I put down linoleum when we first got our coop which is on blocks with wood floor, I didn’t want the floor to rot out. The chickens destroyed the linoleum over night the first night.

      3. Julie Coates says:

        I put down linoleum when we first got our chicken house which is on blocks with wood floor, I didn’t want the floor to rot out. The chickens destroyed the linoleum over night the first night. I was shocked to say the least. At the time we had 12 chickens and were using bedding. Just a caution if you have quite a few chickens. Probably work perfectly for small coops. I will have to think about the sand. Right now we have hay using the deep litter method. There is no smell and we have 30 chickens, about 30 ducks, and 2 goats that use the same chicken house.

  36. Hi there, would the sand work for duck’s coops too? Thank you

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Yes, it’s great for ducks. If my ducks were kept separately from my chickens I would use a larger grit sand only because the ducks get the finer sand stuck to their feet and then bring it into their kiddie pool. I think larger grit would cut down on that. Standing water is a huge problem with ducks, but sand takes care of that.

  37. Rosemarie says:

    I have a polish rooster which in the beginning the other chickens used to peck at him now every time I go to feed them he attempts to nips at my boots and doesn’t let me enter into the coop please help I really don’t want to destroy him

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Have you checked out this post Rosemarie: https://104homestead.com/why-rooster-being-jerk/ The sooner you can get him under control, the better. Not all roosters can be trained to see you as alpha, but the earlier you work with him, the more likely he will understand his place.

      1. Lynn Gilbert says:

        I’m very new to raising chickens, but hopefully, you will find this helpful. I have a rooster who just about 6 weeks ago began posturing and showing mild aggression. I filled a spray bottle with water and would spray him softly (by pulling sprayer slowly) on his chest while also making a “ch” sound with every spray. The sensation caused by the stream of water was strange to him and he would walk away every time. I did this for about a week and then stopped using the spray bottle and began only making the “ch” sound if his behavior appeared to be iffy. I can now go into the yard without any worry because he no longer seems interested in challenging me.

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Great advice Lynn! I walk around with mine under my arm when he’s behaving badly.

    2. You know it was the oddest thing. I just recently got a rooster. Handsome fellow. But he is an ass. I hadn’t had roosters since I was little, only hens, and the roos would always chase us down no matter how much we kicked them. This time I thought I’d try a different method. Basically, every time he ran at me, or tried to show he was boss, I grabbed him!! And carried him around for about 10 minutes each time as I worked around the yard. Totally stopped harassing me. Every now and then (every 2 weeks or so) he starts up again, but then I just carry him around again and he sees me as Alpha boss lady soon after (minutes after). *if you’re wondering how I caught an angry roo unharmed, I’d stick my shoe out, wait for him to jump on it, then pin him to the ground while he was distracted 🙂 🙂 It’s a gentle approach and it worked.

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        That’s similar to the way we dealt with our roosters. We are roosterless right now and not feeling too sad about it. We may stay that way for a while.

        1. We use a large, telescoping handled kitty litter scooper to scoop Chix poop! It works well!

  38. I may have missed it but if is it ok to make a wooden floored coop and put the sand in it? Or is it better to have the sand directly on the ground/gravel? My coop is going to be placed in a permanent location and not really in an area with drain issues.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Mine is on wood and it hasn’t done any damage. I have plastic between the floor and the sand. Directly on the ground or on a concrete base is better than wood though.

  39. I have 5 chickens…their main coup is on concrete with bark on the top and the pen and run area are also covered with bark…I’m in England and we’ve had loads of rain making everywhere boggy and smelly. As soon as we have a dry weekend we are going to remove all the bark and replace it. Will sand be ok when we get a lot of rain?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      It will work great. If your coop is located where water pools, you might want to lay a few inches of crushed rock first so the water can filter through and drain properly.

  40. Sue Hoffman-Pletter says:

    Great idea! Thanks. I have 4 ducks instead of chickens. Do you think the sand bedding would be good for them as well? They sleep in a little 5′ X 4′ area at night. During the day they are in a natural floored (dirt) large, closed-in coop.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Sand is great with ducks in the fact that it doesn’t pool when they trudge through with wet feet (as they often do). The only thing is that duck poo isn’t quite a scoopable as chicken poo. It still works for us though with our mixed flock.

  41. You mentioned impaction in small chicks, is that not a problem with the adults as well? I am making plans for my chicken coop and would love to use sand, but I am worried when their food falls on the ground or I toss treats to them that they will be eating sand all the time.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Unless you are tossing really wet or sticky treats, adults can handle the sand injection better than chicks. The smaller grains pass right through their system and they save the larger grains to use as grit.

  42. I have used regular sand for years with no problem whatsoever. I wasn’t able to find construction grade around here so I got a truck load of regular sand that I use inside and outside of my coop. It’s been about 7 years and have not had a problem with it. Clean up is a breeze, add some barn lime and sprinkle some DE once a week also keeps flies down and everything healthy. I put down a double layer of heavy plastic and added a good amount of sand. The run was already on the sandy side so I just added even more and I hardly need to clean it out as it does just dry up. I do highly recommend sand over other material too.

    1. Robert Pritchard says:

      I have had chickens for about 3 years and am always looking for easier ways to do things. I have read about sand several times and it seems like a good idea for many reasons so l asked my vet, yes chicken vet, and she said she would not recommend using sand because they could inhale it and get respiratory infections. Still sounds like a good idea and am thinking seriously about using it, getting really tired of the mud and the resulting mess. One question, why did you lay down the plastic? Wouldn’t that inhibit the drainage?

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        I only lay down plastic in the coop because the floor of the coop is wood. If you have a stone or dirt floor, this step wouldn’t be necessary.

        Research has been done about dust levels for various bedding options and sand had lower dust levels AFTER being installed. During installation it can produce a good amount of dust, but once it place, the birds create less dust with sand than they do with organic materials that are constantly breaking down. Also, sand dust contains less harmful materials, whereas organic materials may contain mold spores.

  43. Brenda Smith says:

    My husband is building a new coop, hopefully it will be done before the snow flys. Could I use the construction sand in the coop and run for the first time at this time of the year? I thought I read somewhere not to do it in the winter. I’m using Koop Clean in the coop part of my old coop now but would like to switch with the new coop. Just curious thanks.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      We use sand year-round (and we live in Maine). I’ve never had a problem. It reduces the risk of frostbite and amazingly keeps the floor 2 degrees warmer than ambient temperature.

  44. Judy Matt says:

    Have had chickens for many years, have used straw, ( not good )…shavings ( better ) …but this year started the sand, construction grade, very easy to clean the girls love it..BUT..the dust is awful. Made the stall rake and my husband made me a small rake to scoop the dropping’s on to the stall rake to try to keep some of the dust down. That has been my only con on the sand, did lightly spray with the garden hose to keep some dust down… Live in Illinois and have 32 wonderful ladies….

  45. Chickens are new to me and I’ve been trying to research everything. I remain confused on the bedding.

    I read recently that recent studies have shown that sand can contain and maintain a far greater E. coli infestation. The book I’m reading also expresses concern that chicken might accidentally eat their own poo that has been covered in sand.

    Sand seems so ideal but the above information is giving me pause. Do you have problems with them eating their poo?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Kentucky University Cooperative Extension has been doing a lot of research about using sand as a bedding. Here’s a snippet from their research:

      Bacteriologically, sand is equivalent or slightly superior to pine shavings when used as poultry litter. Coliform (including E. coli) and aerobic plate counts were significantly lower when sand was used as the litter material. Wood fiber-based litter materials have been reported to contain relatively high aerobic bacteria counts and fungal populations.

      You can see the whole report here. Some of the writers that are against the use of sand share research, but don’t share links to confirm the validity.

      As far as my personal experience, I have been raising my chickens on sand (in freezing cold Maine) for four years successfully. My flock is both happy and healthy. Although they eat some of the larger particles of sand as grit, I’ve never seen them poo.

  46. I use sand in my coop/run and I love it! So do my girls.

  47. BEVERLY RAY says:

    My hen house has a cement floor with a drain in the center. Shall I put the gravel down about 2″ and then builder’s sand about 4″ deep on top? It shouldn’t get wet except for spills or chicken splashing in the waterer. Sounds like a better idea than straw.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Yes, I would still use gravel just in case you ever experienced odd flooding. I think you are going to love the sand setup. It really is grand. I pulled my sand this spring to wash and sanitize it (first time in 3 years) and I switched to wood chips and hay so I could add organic matter to my growing gardens. I hate this organic material. It’s been so rainy and the ducks and chickens make a mess of it. It also caused my new pullets to lay their eggs on the floor, which I’ve never dealt with before. As soon as the garden is done for the season, the organic material bedding is out of here and I’m back to my sand.

      1. Jessica, how do you wash and sanitize the sand?

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Once a year (usually during the summer) I shovel it out onto a tarp in the driveway. I hose it down really good and let it bake in the sun for a few days (sort of stirring it so the sun can work it’s magic).

          1. new to chickens…. we are building a run with bare ground. There is some grass. Is it best once chick are big enough to leave brooder, to let them eat the grass or start with sand over the dirt and grass?

          2. Jessica Lane says:

            Certainly let them enjoy the grass while it lasts. They’ll thank you for it.

          3. that seems like a lot of sand to put on tarps! 6-8″ of sand in my 10×10 coop… that just seems crazy.i is there an easier way to clean the sand? do you ever just hose it down?

          4. Jessica Lane says:

            If you have plenty of drainage (and somewhere to put your chickens) you can certainly hose it down.

  48. My chicks are ready to move out to the coop. I have 2 quarries nearby and neither has sand that looks like the ones on the chicken chick website. Everything is more sandy. Home depot/lowes the same. I’m confused as to how much rock material I really need. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Where I live, they call is construction sand or bank run sand. Mostly, you want to look for sand that has some variety of size to it. You want the larger sizes to be about the size of grit. Most quarries should offer it as a base for placing cement blocks, though the name of it may be different.

      1. I use construction sand left from building my home, as the builder to move to backyard instead of spreading on lawn. Love the results in coop and run they are secure in for the night. I scoop out poop every morning while collecting eggs.

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Glad to hear it’s working well for you 🙂

  49. Do you use the sand in the nesting box also?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I don’t (I use hay), but I am considering using sand in the lower boxes. I have two hens with chicks that sleep in the boxes and they get so gross so quickly. Sand would be a easy to clean in the morning before everyone starts laying for the day.

  50. Vickie Young says:

    I can’t wait to get started with my chicken coup and sand.Thanks for this tip

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You are so welcome!

  51. I have used crushed limestone (rock screenings) as platform for my coop and extended that into the run. It seems to serve the same purpose as sand and drains well. Could I use that in the coop as an alternative to construction sand?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’m not too familiar with rock screenings. So long is it isn’t insanely dusty, I imagine it would work just fine.

  52. I am currently in the process of drawing up plans for a coop redesign, as we are battling having placed a prefab coop directly on the ground forour first go at chicken keeping. The girls are healthy; I free range them daily because the coop is a mucky mess and difficult to cleanandshovelout.
    My question for you is this, in your run is just the 6-8″ of sand placed over the former grass? No other base under the sand, correct? Just looking for insight. Thank you.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      If you don’t have standing water, you should be fine just adding the sand. If you have drainage issues, you might want to consider laying down gravel first. Standing water and chicken poo is a bad combination.

    2. We just completed building our coop and run. I used 3/4″ gravel 9-16″ deep (our property is sloped but he run is leveled by a retaining wall) then landscape fabric under 15 – 8″ concrete sand. Working like a dream.

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        I am so glad to hear it!

  53. Thanks for your informative article. We converted a 4’x 8′ wood shed to a coop and built a shelf under their roosting bars. On the shelf we used rectangular oil pans and on the floor of the coop we used linoleum. But we’re using a bucket with water nipples and they drip, making it impossible to keep the sand dry. How much sand should we be using in the oil pan and on the linoleum, and should we be worrying about the wet sand under the water nipples? Thanks!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Moisture in the coop is a bad thing regardless of the bedding you use (though sand will dry faster than organic bedding and it won’t mold). Maybe try a boot tray with pebbles under the nipple waterer to catch drips.

      1. Even if we put a boot tray with pebbles under it, that would still be moisture in the coop, right? I guess if I had a boot tray with pebbles, any drips could be sopped up with paper towels.

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          That was what I was thinking. Or you can omit the pebbles and they can drink the water that drips. Have you considered cup drinkers? I had the same issue with nipples, so I only use them outdoors. I have cup drinkers in the coop attached to a rain barrel. No drips to deal with.

  54. Hi
    New chicken farmer here. About to get chickes in a few days was wondering if teh samd from home Lowes would work like the QUIKRETE 50-lbs All-Purpose Sand. Does silica harm the chickens? Should I look for silica free sand?

    Thanks for help

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I think that should work just fine, but if you need a bunch, it might be more cost effective to go to a quarry.

      As far as silica, that’s up for debate. The sand I use contains silica as does the land where my chickens range. We’ve never had an issue.

      1. Great thank you so much for th reply!!

  55. Bob Giese says:

    I noticed that you mentioned using DE in your sand. Please do not use DE. The safe handling instructions on it say humans must wear a mask, and it is known to cause respiratory infections in chooks. Please see http://www.the-chicken-chick.com for a great article on this subject.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I am a big fan of Gail Damerow (who Kathie quotes in her post on DE), but I can’t say I completely agree with her. When I wrote my book on controversial husbandry practices for chickens, I did a lot of reading and studying of the research that had been conducted. Much like Kathie, I dive into things and don’t take them right at the word of a so-called expert. I am a facts girl. Anyways, much research has been done by The Avian Research Centre of the University of British Columbia and although they question the effectiveness of DE as a supplement or antiparastic, they confirm that it is in no way harmful to the chicken. Dr. Jacob Jacquie of the University of Kentucky confirms that DE works as an excellent preventative for external parasites, but will not cure an infestation. Safe handling during application is of course very important, but fear not, DE will not harm your chicken (nor cure it).

  56. Doug Smith says:

    my chicken tractor i’m building will have a large tray to keep floor clean ..can i use 2-3 inches of sand for this and not be a problem?

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      You mean in the living space of the tractor? Absolutely! With 2-3 inches you’ll want to be sure to do a daily scooping, but a kitty litter scoop will make quick work of it.

  57. I was psyched about using sand in the coops and it was awesome for the first 4-6 weeks. Now I’m not happy with it at all. I can’t wait til spring so I can get rid of it.
    Just a side note, love, love, LOVE The Chicken Chick aka Kathy Shea Mormino!!!!!!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but I agree that Kathy is pretty cool 🙂

    2. I was debating on if I should get sand or not. Why were you unhappy with it? We live in Wisconsin.

  58. Every other blogger I’ve followed and several hatcheries have advised against using sand. It can cause severe respiratory issues. Not something I’m willing to take a chance with.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      A lot of intensive research as been conducted on using sand versus organic materials and sand has come out an obvious winner. That being said, I think every keeper needs to make a decision for what is best for them and their birds. Never do something you are uncomfortable with just because everyone says it’s the way it should be done.

  59. I love using sand! It is so quick to scoop and keep clean. The girls love to dust bathe and make beds in it. It stays much drier than the ground around it and the girls’ feet are so clean I never mind them climbing up on my shoulders for a ride! I found little clear info on homesteading/backyard chicken sites when I switched but tracked down several university studies for larger operations. They said the sand stays drier, warmer in winter, cooler in summer and required less clean-up time. We were careful to buy washed construction sand. We are in the -5 to -20 range now and, although the older sand has frozen and compacted some, the newer sand is perfectly…um, well…sandy.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I love hearing another testimonial. I cited several of those studies in my book when I discussed sand as an alternative option. One of the studies takes place right here in Maine. If it works in cold Maine, it should work in any other cold climate (I say as I look outside to another day of negative temperatures).

  60. Is there ever a problem with the chickens trying to eat the sand? I’d like to try it, but I’m worried my chickens are a little to…confused… for it.

    1. They will eat some of it as grit to help break down their feed when they eat. As far as eating too much, causing compaction, I haven’t had an issue. The only time I can see there being risk is when chicks are very young. I typically use paper towels for the first week or two. By then, the chicks have identified what is food and what isn’t.

  61. I am building a new coop with a dirt floor. I have lots of river rocks, all sizes. I am thinking of using about 4″ of rocks on the dirt and then using several inches of sand. Would this work?

    1. River rocks should work really well for drainage. Since you’re starting with a new coop, here are a few additional suggestions.

      – Dig down so you can allow for 3-4″ of river rock and 6″+ of construction sand. This will allow you to not lose the sand between the rocks, but have a nice sturdy floor of sand.

      – When you dig, slant the floor a bit to promote water draining out. It doesn’t need to be a large incline, just enough to promote water run off where you want it.

  62. I live in Ga and we’ve had some pretty wet days and my run is a mud bog. I had sand in their coop 4×5 and it worked great but I added straw on top for the winter. I loved the idea of gravel under the sand. We were going to dig a trench and berm to get the water away from the area. This might be a much better idea. Thanks for the idea.

    1. I think you’ll be pleased with the results adding gravel. Use caution when laying organic materials (like hay or straw) over sand as they can get mixed in the sand and mold. I have deep nest boxes to reduce the chances of the nest box hay falling onto the sand.

  63. Anonymous says:

    We built a an 8ft. x 12ft. building this summer, thinking that half of it would be for the 8 chicks we had ordered and half for a potting shed for me. The two sides are divided with hardware cloth. We used sand on the floor, but it has created so much fine dust all over the building that is is impossible to use my potting shed half. Did we use the wrong kind of sand? We bought it at a lumber yard, by the truckload and were told it was washed construction sand.

    1. Does it look fairly course, as in courser than sandbox sand? Chickens make dust no matter which bedding you use, though sand has less dust than most alternatives. You mentioned chicks. How old are they? Chicks are constantly growing and dropping feathers while they wait for the adult feathers to come in. These tiny hairlike feathers can create a really big mess.

  64. Hi, I live in the uk so its pretty wet all year round. :/. Im building a run and coop at the weekend and after reading your post I’m tempted to use sand. The run will be completly covered from rain but on windy days moisture will inevitably blow in the sides where the chicken wire will be. Is sand still a good option? And if so would I be better off putting down some garden cloth before 8 inches of sand on dirt or just go straight on? Its at the bottom of a slope which gets very muddy/boggy.

    1. Hi Craig!
      I would recommend adding a layer of course gravel topped with a thick (6+ inches) or sand to assure good drainage. Except in the event of drenching rains, the water will filter through the sand and drain through the pockets created by the gravel.

  65. Small House Under a Big Sky says:

    This is a really great post, thank you so much. We just finished building our new coop and run and are picking up our adopted chickens today. We put sand in the coop as litter per Kathy the Chicken Chick but your informative post added some additional points I had not considered.
    Donna at The Small House Homestead http://smallhouseunderabigskyhomestead.wordpress.com

  66. We currently have a dirt floor in our coop and are using the deep litter method with pine shavings. Still having issues with the odor and have used DE and it doesn’t seem to help with odor issues and wondering if sand would work better for our coop? It’s a big coop and we have around 60 chickens in there! We’re in central Missouri.

    1. I think sand may be a great option for you. Odor issues can be a problem with organic bedding and DE can actually make it worse. DE kills off not only the troublesome bacteria, but the good bacteria as well. The good bacteria are the ones that compost the organic matter.

      1. We live in Central MO and are having the worst problems with our chickens. They will just not lay and are beginning to think it is the coop. We built this thing about two years ago and it is a palace compared to other temporary coops we had before. It sits right on the ground. We have been wondering if that is the cause…all wet dirt in there all the time? We have tried wood chips and hay, doesn’t help. We have to get in there with a shovel and scoop out all that wet heavy NASTY smelling goop. It looks alot better but unless we go through an extremely dry period it still remains wet. So, when you say you rake out the sand once a month, it almost sounds too easy. Is that all you really do to clean it out on a monthly basis? Just rake out the chicken poop like you cleaning a giant kitty litter box? And why do you put the ash in it in the winter? Thanks!

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Moisture sounds like the problem. Moisture issues are one of the hardest things for chickens to deal with because of their sensitive respiratory systems. I recommend digging down your floor a bit, adding some crushed rock, then topping it with sand. I think you’ll find your coop stays drier and the odor dissipates.

          You will want to clean your coop regularly still, but I find it goes really quickly. I do a quick clean in the morning to get what accumulated under the roosts overnight. It only takes about 5 minutes in my 8′ x 8′ coop. I do the whole floor once a month unless they have been inside a lot due to rain or snow. Then I might do it more often.

  67. Heather H says:

    Great article! Thanks for the info! What breed of chicken is in the picture? I have some but wasn’t for sure on their breed! =)

    1. Thank you Heather. Shes’s an Ameraucana.

  68. Jan Binder says:

    yR SITE IS SOOO ENLIGHTENING…My grandmother had chickens…lots…and i watched her feed, gather eggs..wring their necks for dinner…free range in large fenced in pasture…the BEST chicken in the world…Love reading about use of sand and so much else…thanks!

    1. Thank you so much Jan!

  69. Mike the Gardener says:

    I never thought about putting sand in the coop, only using outside the coop in their dustbath. Interesting!

  70. While I know that Sand has become a popular new thought in coops and runs, I am glad you pointed out that it is not the right choice for every climate. In the moist hot humid south where I am located, this would be a nightmare to keep up. We have moisture even on the hills where the coop is located. So thanks for being realistic and adding that part. Also, sand here would be so hot on the chickens feet.

  71. What do you do with the sand you clean out of the coop once a year?

    1. I reuse it. I shovel it out onto a big tarp and wash it with a vinegar and citrus mixture. I use one of those fertilizer containers that hooks to a hose to wash it. Then I let it “bake” in the sun for a few days. After its really dry, back in the coop it goes.

      1. Anonymous says:

        What do you put in the coop when your letting the sand dry after cleaning it?

        1. I use a thin layer of new sand. It tends to get tracked out in the treads of muck boots or kicked out when the hens dustbathe near the door. Adding a couple inches of fresh when I pull out the old stuff brings it back to optimal depth when I put the cleaned sand back.

  72. Seana Langille says:

    I read that sand is too cold in the winter in a raised coop, I live in nova scotia where it gets to be -20c sometimes. What are you thoughts?

    1. I was talked out of keeping it in the coop during the winter last year. I regret the decision to switch it out for shavings. The shavings may have been “warmer”, but they released ammonia despite using the deep litter method. The birds were having respiratory issues and all the ventilation in the world wasn’t helping. Considering the amount of time the birds spend on the ground, I’m not worried about the chill. Wet sand is of course a concern, but no more so than wet shavings or hay. Spills must be cleaned up immediately in the winter regardless of bedding choice. I have a friend in Connecticut who has used sand in her coop for 10 years year-round and her birds are some of the healthiest I’ve ever seen.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Our pen area is a fenced but not roofed, ground area. We will cover it with wire but it’s just to big to put a roof over all of it. Will 6-8″ of sand still dry quickly? We have some pretty good rain and snow throughout the year. In the winter rains, is the cold, wet sand a problem for their feet? I am liking this idea.

    1. If the area gets sunshine, it should dry quickly. It it’s shaded, sand may not be the right option for you. I go out and “fluff” damp areas that aren’t drying as quickly as I’d like, but I’m a stay at home mom, so I have quite a bit of time on my hands.

      One solution to help with draining (if your area isn’t too big) is to put 4-6″ of crushed rock down as a base with the sand on top. The crushed rock will create channels for the water to drain through.

  74. Do you have a problem with fleas? I would worry about carrying them back into my home after being out there.

    1. I’ve never had a problem. In fact, it didn’t occur to me that there was a potential for an issue until you mentioned it. The constant stirring of the sand by the birds might be why,but I can’t say for sure. The birds are untreated and have never had a flea or mite. The dog and cat are treated only With essential oil collar and they’ve yet to have a flea either.

    2. Anonymous says:

      I would think the chickens would eat any fleas that may hatch.

  75. Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick says:

    The worst thing you can do is let sand or any bedding get wet in the run. It most certainly does smell to High Heaven when it gets wet. This year has been an especially potent reminder of same. 🙁

  76. What do u suggest if u want your birds to forage in the run? If I use sand they won’t be able to, so I would need to let them out to free range a lot right? Currently, we are with them when they free range due to predators from above.

    1. I have discovered that after about a month, chickens are unable to forage anything in a permanent run. I use to have lawn there… it’s gone. Chickens will strip what they forage very quickly.

      A cool concept that I learned about (and still use despite the fact that my girls free range) is growing frames. You make a wooden box with a hinged wire mesh top and plant seeds inside. I’ve used all sorts of seeds, but right now I’ve got clover and dandelions. The birds can enjoy foraging for these goodies, but they can rip them up from the roots, so they continue to grow. Sink a growing frame in your sand run and they can forage.

  77. Tina McAnallen Huba says:

    Would this work in the coop with dirt flooring? Just thicker like in the run?

    1. It works just fine in a coop with a dirt floor. Just like you guessed, go a bit deeper so they dirt and sand aren’t getting mixed up and muddy. One consideration with dirt floors (and the run as well) is moisture can make for an icky smell during very wet conditions (like spring thaw in the north). A little sprinkling of pelletized lime will take care of it beautifully.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Do the chickens eat the lime?

        1. Jessica Lane says:

          Mine haven’t bothered it at all. I try not to add it in a way that makes them think it’s a treat. I wait until they are roaming outdoors, close them out, sprinkle it around and mix it in. Since it’s the pelletized version, it looks just like dirt. They seem oblivious.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Hello, we just purchased a new coop and are getting ready to add a larger run for them. We live in northern Michigan and was interested in using the sand method. We currently just use the grass flooring, would it be suitable to just add sand on top and if so, how deep should we go?

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        So long as you don’t have issues with standing water, 4-6″ of sand should do the trick. If you do have drainage issues, I suggest laying down some crushed gravel first.