Why Your Backyard Chickens Will Love Sand

Using sand in the chicken coop is becoming a very common. It’s easy to see why. Sand has so many benefits. When used properly. Find out how.

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.

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.

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.

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 (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.

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.

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.

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190 Comments

  1. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

      Thanks!

      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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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….

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!