Laying down flooring in your chicken run is an important part of keeping chickens. What material is best to use can quite confusing and a challenge; especially for those new to backyard chicken keeping. I have gained a proper understanding of the best flooring after spending the last couple of weeks researching the options available. This buyers guide will help you to know what to get.
So, what is the best chicken run flooring? The best chicken run flooring keepers decide to use includes: Wood Chips, Pine Shavings, Sand, Gravel, Zeolite Minerals or a Mixture of these different types. What will work best for you and your chickens will depend on where you live, your preferences and your expected weather conditions. For example, sand does not do particularly well in rain unless covered and contained. Either way, its important you stick to a safe flooring to prevent your chickens from consuming and ingesting it.
Whatever flooring you opt for, it must be appropriate to suit your chickens needs. Chickens are not fussiest, but ensuring that it keeps them safe, the environment hygienic and is easy enough for you to clean up and replace as an owner are all very important. The health of your birds is reliant upon your choice.
Importance Of Chicken Run Flooring
One of the most important aspects of keeping chickens is deciding on the material in which your birds will stand on for a large proportion of their time.
While there are many options out there, what will work best for you and your birds does depend on where you plan to position the run. You need to ask yourself questions such as: do you plan to move it? How much are you willing and able to clean?
Nonetheless, flooring is of utmost important. It will be the material in which your birds need to stand. Your birds will be living upon it, so it needs to not only be safe but fulfill the needs that are placed upon it.
Equally, you need to consider the flooring in relation to ongoing maintenance and the ability to collect waste, make it easy to clean and ultimately keep your chicken run hygienic.
Your goal, as a chicken keeper, is to create a place that your birds feel comfortable whilst simultaneously making your life easier. You want to set your run up in such a way that it makes cleaning simple; so that you continue to do so when it really matters.
The following, are the most commonly used by chicken keepers. For some, they test out each of the different options until they find what works best for them and their birds.
Types Of Flooring
- Wood Chips
- Pine Shavings
- Pea Gravel
- Zeolite Minerals
- Mix (Sand and Gravel)
Wood Chips have become one of the most popular flooring options of late because they tick a lot of boxes. They’re clean, light, easy to store, provide free drainage, are mostly dust free and they also promote natural foraging behaviors in chickens (they like to scratch and peck around in them).
Wood chippings are easy to clean, and do not get trampled into mud – making the ground of the run a lot tidier. In time, they will naturally break down – so all you need to do is top them up a couple of times per year. The benefit of using them is that if you do want to move your chicken run; you can dig the chips down into the soil and they will naturally biodegrade.
Generally, chips that are made up of hardwood last longer than softwood varieties.
Its important not to be confused with bark chips. These should not be used in chicken runs as they can gather mold and lead to respiratory illness in your flock.
Pine shavings are often used by chicken keepers due to their versatility, cost-effectiveness, being easy to store and being naturally absorbent.
Sand is another popular option because it is cost-effective and again, easy to clean. Sand will naturally wash away unless you prevent it from doing so through containment, and it will seep into the soil over time, but it can be topped up as the level starts to reduce.
Sand is perhaps the easiest option; especially if you leverage a rake to spread your chickens’ droppings so it naturally breaks down over time. Then, all you need to do is remove the top layer and replace every 6 months.
The biggest downside of sand reported by keepers is that it does not hold up well, at all, in rain. It can also clump and stick to wet shoes if worn in the run.
Pea Gravel are essentially small stones that you lay over the run. When being used, droppings will wash through to the bottom. Therefore it is recommended that they are laid on soil rather than a membrane or otherwise the run can begin to smell.
Pea gravel is effective, although some chicken owners have reported that their birds struggle or find it uncomfortable on their feet. That being said, it lasts the longest compared to other flooring types.
Straw is also used by some chicken keepers due to being light, fresh-smelling and cost effective. However, straw will become soggy if it rains or water gets onto it. This can make the run a challenge to clean. Plus, if its windy, it can even blow away!
Zeolite Minerals are an all-natural, organic moisture absorbing substance that also works to naturally neutralize odors. These are fine granules that can be easily spread across coops and runs. One of the major benefits of these minerals, is that they also serves as a safe and beneficial grit as they are naturally high in calcium.
Mix (Sand and Gravel) using a combination of different types of flooring is also an option. Some owners report great success of using a sand and gravel mix. Some retailers sell products like this specifically. It usually consists of a 1/2 inch stone and a coarse sand.
Mixes tend to work well and chickens generally enjoy being able to dig and bathe if required. The surface typically compacts over time as chickens walk and poop, but with a top uo from time to time the surface can be refreshed.
Best Flooring By Type
With the various options in mind, let us know take a look at some of the best products in each category.
#1 Wood Chips
Wood Chips are some of the most robust types of flooring you can use for your chicken run. You mostly want to avoid bark (which can go moldy and produce spores ), so the Kaytee Red Cedar Bedding from Amazon is perfect.
This is a bag full of all-natural, fresh shavings made from cedar wood and specially processed to prevent dust that can be an issue with other types of bedding.
This material does not break down as easily; meaning it is a lot more economical and practical. It also looks great in your backyard and chickens tend to enjoy scratching around.
#2 Pine Shavings
If you looking at pine shavings, then Manna Pro Fresh Flakes from Amazon are some of the best on the market to buy.
This product has been carefully harvested and manufactured to ensure that no dust is present, and mold spores, E. Coli and Salmonella cannot develop. It equally very absorbent, making it ideal for even the messiest of flocks.
They have a very pleasant, natural wood smell and owners often report how this is effective at masking any fowl-odors from their chickens waste.
One of the major benefits of this specific brand is that they source from renewable forestry source so you’ll also be supporting the environment too.
When it comes to sourcing sand for your chicken run, you must obtain some medium to course-grained options. Generally 0.5mm and above is recommended.
Some common names for this type of sand include: construction sand, river sand, and bank sand.
Unfortunately, fine grained sands, like play or beach sand can be dangerous to chickens. It can cause crop impact and respiratory illnesses so you need to be careful that the sand you use is not too fine.
For the most part, it makes sense to visit your local gravel companies to get your sand. Most of the sand available at generic retailers usually only sell too fine-grained sand.
There are a couple of brands of river sands available on Amazon, however, this is primarily intended for use in an aquarium.
#4 Pea Gravel
There are a few good choices when it comes to Pea Gravel. Perhaps one of the best ones available on Amazon is this brand.
This gravel is all natural and non-toxic; having been sourced from a variety of rivers. One of the major benefits of this particular gravel is that it has been lightly polish to round off the edges. this way, its very soft and is easy on the feet. This makes it more comfortable for chickens.
This particular product is also very effective when it comes to drainage, and has many positive reviews from customers pleased with their purchase.
An important aspect of run flooring for chickens is comfort. You want it to be naturally soft and an area where your birds can roam and equally, relax!
The Standlee chopped straw from Amazon is a good choice. It is all natural, completely biodegradable is weed free and leaves minimal waste making it ideal to clean up.
You get a fantastic amount of straw for a great price, so its a very economical and cost-effective option. It should last you a long time and chickens fare very well on it.
#6 Zeolite Minerals
The Sweet PDZ Coop Refresher has become a best seller in the chicken run flooring on Amazon. Its no real surprise why.
This flooring is a non-toxic, all natural organic mineral (Zeolite) that naturally reduces odors and retains moisture well.
Its very easy to spread down across the run and perhaps best of all, can even be consumed by your chickens as grit! It is abundant in calcium and can be safely consumed by chickens to supplement their intake of this widely important mineral.
When it comes to identifying a flooring for your run; its important to know that many different types can work.
For most people, finding the best flooring takes a little bit of time, trial and error.
Ultimately, you need to find the balance between what looks great, but what is also easy to use, clean, is cost-effective and perhaps most importantly of all, provides comfort and a hygienic environment for your chickens.
With any flooring; preference should be made to ensure the floor does not become muddy. For this reason, keeping your run away from the bottom of a slope and keeping the run on a flat surface is recommended.
Do chicken runs need a floor? A chicken run does not necessarily need a floor, especially if you are using the deep litter method (allowing bedding to accumulate and naturally decompose), they naturally drain well and predators cannot easily access them. However, most runs that do not have flooring are easier for a predator to get into, are a challenge to clean and allow too much moisture to build up. It is therefore recommended that you use a suitable flooring for your run.
Can a chicken run be on concrete? A chicken run can be placed on concrete. In fact, it can protect your flock from predators that burrow under ground for access, enables no place for lice and mites to hide and is generally easy to clean and sanitize. However, concrete is the most expensive floor option, you are unable to move the run and you require sufficient outside space that you can dedicate to your chickens.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.