Why Sand Is the Best Bedding for Your Chicken Coop + Run

Discover why sand is the ideal bedding for your chicken coop, offering easy maintenance, odor control, and happy chickens.

Chickens in a fenced-in run with sand bedding.

If you’re new to chickens, you might be wondering what to put on the floor of your 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 chicken run because it is exposed to the elements. It can get soggy, moldy, or just smell terrible. The sand suffers from none of those problems. There are, however, things you must do so that your sand performs well.

Choosing the Right Sand

In order to keep your chickens healthy and happy, as well as the coop clean and odor-free, it’s important to use the correct kind of sand. How well sand works in the coop is heavily dependent on factors like its texture, composition, and color.

Understanding Sand Types

Bank Run Sand

Bank run sand has a wide range of particle sizes, from very fine dust to very small pebbles. Because of this, bank run sand is great for chicken coops that get a lot of moisture. The bigger particles make it less likely that the sand will compact, which improves airflow and drainage. This is the best choice for sand in most coops.

Construction Sand

Like bank run sand, construction sand comes in a range of particle sizes and is commonly used in construction projects. It is long-lasting, has excellent drainage, and will not break the bank. To keep the chickens dry and comfortable in coops that are located in places with high humidity or heavy rainfall, construction sand is a great choice.

All-Purpose Sand

As its name implies, all-purpose sand is a more adaptable choice that excels in a range of applications. The fact that its particles are usually more uniform in size than those of bank run or construction sand is both an advantage and a disadvantage. If other types of sand are not easily accessible, this one will do in a pinch, though it will not drain as well.

Can I use play sand in my chicken coop?

Playsand and sandbox sand floats, and you will regret using it. 

A picture illustrating the different types of sand.

Accessibility and Cost

Sometimes, the best sand for your coop is what’s readily available and cost-effective. Transporting large quantities of sand can be expensive, so sourcing sand locally can influence your choice.

Tip: I have found sand at home improvement stores, landscaping supply stores, and even directly from quarries and sand suppliers. There may also be different types of sand that are good for chicken coops at garden centers and stores that sell building supplies.  

No matter which type of sand you choose, make sure it’s free from contaminants and sharp objects that could harm your chickens.

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

A thin layer will not give you the results you want. Chicken manure will shift below 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 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.

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.
  • It 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.
  • It soaks up and gets rid of smells, keeping the air fresh and the coop smelling clean.
  • 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.
  • It makes composting easy! There is 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.
  • The soft, even surface prevents bumblefoot and other foot issues by reducing exposure to hard, uneven, or damp flooring.


Maintenance is super easy, too! 

  • Weekly: Sift out manure and turn the sand. A modified stall rake makes a great sand sifter. Just use zip ties to attach some 1/4″ hardware cloth. Doing this regularly prevents the buildup of ammonia and keeps the coop smelling fresh.
A stall rake with hardware cloth zip tied to it to make a large sifter.
  • Bi-Annually: Twice a year, I add some pelletized lime or sweet PDZ to the run to help maintain a fresh-smelling coop. These materials also help absorb excess moisture. Add more sand as needed to replace what has been removed during cleaning or what has compacted over time. 
  • Annually: Once a year, I completely clean out the coop and add new sand. This is the perfect time to make any necessary repairs or modifications.

Tip: I put our used sand with chicken manure in our compost pile. The waste will break down over time and eventually turn into nutrient-rich compost. The sand is a huge benefit to people with clay soils because it helps with aeration and drainage.

  • Seasonally: In the winter, I throw in some ash from the woodstove, and in the summer, I sprinkle in some DE (diatomaceous earth). Both of these ​​control mites, lice, and other pests.

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

That’s it!

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with its many benefits, using sand in chicken coops can sometimes present challenges. Here are solutions to some common issues that you might encounter:

Odor Problems

  • Cause: Either inadequate cleaning or bad drainage. 
  • Solution: Refresh areas under roosts more frequently and clean up droppings more often as a solution. Make sure the depth of the sand layer is sufficient to allow for adequate drainage. Pelletized lime or Sweet PDZ can be added to neutralize odors.

Wet or Compacted Sand

  • Cause: Heavy rainfall, lack of drainage, or not enough sand.
  • Solution: Add a layer of gravel under the sand to improve drainage, particularly in areas that tend to get wet. Turn the sand with a rake on a regular basis to keep it from compacting and speed up its drying time.
A plastic rake for turning the sand and refreshing it.

Pest Infestations

  • Cause: Damp conditions or not using preventive measures.
  • Solution: Maintain dry conditions in the coop, as pests thrive in moisture. Use food-grade diatomaceous earth in the sand to deter pests, but apply it sparingly to avoid respiratory issues in chickens.

Difficulty in Cleaning

  • Cause: Using the wrong tools or techniques.
  • Solution: Use a modified stall rake or a homemade sifter designed for sand to make cleaning easier. You can drastically cut down on the amount of work needed if you clean regularly and thoroughly using the right tools.

Sand Too Hot or Cold

  • Cause: Extreme temperatures affecting the surface layer of the sand.
  • Solution: In hot climates, provide shaded areas within the coop to protect sand from direct sunlight. During cold months, add a thicker layer of sand to insulate.

Sand in the Brooder

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 hatching 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.

Chicken chicks being brooded on sand bedding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, sand is suitable for all climates due to its excellent drainage capabilities and ability to maintain moderate temperatures, but it’s important to manage it appropriately for your specific weather conditions.

The sand should be fully replaced once a year, although spot cleaning and occasional topping up can extend its life.

Yes, sand can be used with other bedding materials, such as straw or hay, in colder climates for additional insulation, though it works best when used as the primary bedding material. Do not use wood shavings with sand. It will create a big mess.

Using sand can help reduce the risk of illnesses related to dampness and poor hygiene, as it dries quickly and is easy to keep clean, reducing the habitat for bacteria and parasites.

While there is a low risk of impaction with younger chicks if they ingest large quantities of sand before they learn to differentiate it from food, this risk is minimal for adult chickens when sand is used correctly in the coop.

Initially, the cost of sand may be higher than traditional bedding like straw or wood shavings, but over time, the durability and ease of maintenance can make sand more cost-effective due to less frequent replacements.

Finding the right chicken coop bedding is only the first step in making your backyard flock happy and healthy. Go further into improving their health by learning about the vital role that natural remedies can play. In addition, find out what kinds of plants can enhance their environment safely by learning about the variety of plants that are chicken-safe. Learn the basics of coop design that combine form and function to make your coop more than just a place to keep your chickens; make it a sanctuary. Also, be sure your feathered friends are well-prepared for winter by learning how to keep them warm and comfortable as the weather turns colder.

If you’ve found value in this blog post and enjoyed reading it, why not share it with your Pinterest community? Pin the image below and spread the love!

A Pinterest-friendly graphic for my post on why I think sand is the perfect bedding for chickens.

There are several great reasons to use sand as chicken coop bedding, including the fact that it promotes great foot health, helps with moisture management, and significantly reduces odors. Incredibly affordable and requiring little in the way of upkeep, it is the perfect option for all homesteaders. The advantages and adaptability of sand make it an obvious choice as a bedding for chickens, regardless of whether you are working with a small backyard flock or a bigger farm. 

When you add sand to your chicken coop, you are creating an environment that is simpler, cleaner, and better for the chickens’ health. Your hens will be happier and healthier as a result.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. thuoc ga da says:

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

  8. 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!!

  9. 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. 🙂

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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 ?

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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!

  25. 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.