Is Straw Chicken Coop Bedding Safe? – Pros and Cons

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Straw is among the most common bedding materials used in the United States of America for chicken coops. Their popularity is because of availability and tradition. In the present time, most chicken keepers tend to care more about the happiness and health of their chickens than the previous generations. So, Is straw chicken coop bedding safe?

Many consider Straw a reasonably good bedding material for coops because it is low in dust, and chickens like scratching in it. Besides, it also insulates well. However, it also has a few cons that you must be aware of when using it.

For instance, Straw does not release moisture well, and you will have to replace it frequently because it gets dirty quickly. Read on to find out more.

What is Straw?

Straw refers to dried stalks of grain. Most people usually confuse it hay. The latter refers to grass that has been dried to be used as animal feed. The moisture content of hay is very high and does not make good bedding for chickens.

A high moisture content usually leads to pathogens and mold growing and multiplying in your coop, eventually leading to serious chicken health problems. Chopped Straw is a safer option and is recommended for use in coops. Non-chopped Straw can lead to crop impaction.

Advantages of Using Straw as a Bedding for Chickens

Using Straw as bedding for your chicken coop comes with several advantages. If you have been thinking of using it, here are some of its benefits.

Straw is a Good absorbent

Straw is one of the best absorbent materials that you can use as bedding in your coop. Studies have shown that Straw can hold up to seven times of its weight in water. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the suitable bedding material for your coop is the ability of the material to absorb moisture.

Absorption is vital because you will not want moisture to pool on your bedding. Most chicken keepers will also not want their bedding to get soaking wet. The Straw will do a perfect job by holding any moisture in your coop.  

Low in Cost

If you have been thinking of setting up the bedding for your coop at a lower cost, you can consider using Straw. It is generally cheaper, and most chicken keepers can afford it. Unlike other bedding materials that are slightly expensive, you can get Straw at an affordable price from various suppliers. 

Straw Bedding is Low in Dust

Chickens typically have sensitive respiratory systems. As a chicken keeper, when choosing a bedding material for your coop, you must go for those materials that are very low in dust. Although a few sources of Straw may be high in dust, most of the sources are more suitable and do not have dust.

Non-chopped Straw, for instance, is low in dust, although you should not use it as the priority for bedding. This is because it can cause crop impaction. It can also lead to pathogen growth.

Chickens Enjoy to Scratch in Straw Bedding

Many chicken keepers usually prefer throwing grains into the Straw and letting the chickens scratch around the Straw in the coop, looking for the grains. Chickens, as well as the keepers, love this. Straw bedding is a perfect choice if you want your chickens to enjoy scratching. You should, however, be careful with this as your chickens may end up consuming pathogens.

Straw is Excellent for the Deep Litter Method

The deep litter method has become very popular in the recent past among many people. In this method, you will hardly change the bedding out. If it starts to get too gross or stinky, you will have to add more fresh bedding to the already existing old bedding. This will cause your bedding to get deeper and deeper.

The bedding will compost slowly over time, and within a year, you can finally take it out and use it as compost. Another bonus is that bacteria will break down the bedding in the coop and release heat. As a result, your coop will be warmer during the winter seasons. Straw is the preferred bedding for most people who are using the deep litter method.

Straw Composts Quickly 

Chicken keepers who do not use the deep litter method may still use the bedding later for compost. You can remove old bedding from your coop and then add it to your compost pile. If you are thinking of practicing this on your farm, you can consider Straw as the bedding material for your chicken. Straw usually composts very fast.

You can Use Straw Bedding Compost on your Gardens

In addition to acting as a good bedding material for a chicken coop, Straw can also be used in your gardens. If you have a garden, you can put into productive use the chicken waste and old bedding. Decaying Straw can add more natural nutrients to your garden soil and even lead to an increase in crop production on your farm.

Straw Bedding is Good at Insulation

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a bedding material for your coop is the insulation quality of the material. Good bedding material is the one that will act as a good insulator.

Straw bedding has insulating features. During the winter, you will not strain to warm your coop as Straw will ensure that the coop remains warm most of the time.

Widely Available

Straw bedding is widely available. You can easily find it within your locality from various suppliers. If you use it as bedding in your coop, you will not have to strain yourself and spend most of your time looking for it.

Straw Bedding is usually Lightweight

Straw bedding is very lightweight when compared to other alternatives such as sand. You will therefore find it easy to maneuver it in and out of the coop.

The Cons of Using Straw for Bedding

Straw is not a Good Litter

Some experts do not consider Straw as a suitable litter for chickens. According to Kathy Shea Mormino, chickens require litter as bedding is mainly for livestock. Chickens need a material that will serve well as litter for their droppings.

Here are a few qualities of litter:

  • Does not decompose
  • Good moisture absorption and release
  • Keeps odors down
  • Dries out droppings

It Does not Release Moisture Well and has Increased Pathogen Level

One of the worst qualities of Straw as bedding for a chicken coop is the fact that it does not release moisture well. It retains more water as compared to other bedding alternatives. This may eventually create an environment for pathogen growth.

The straw will likely grow mold at some point. Most people who have used Straw for the deep litter method have reported mold growth as a bigger challenge to them. Some molds may eventually kill your chickens.

Straw Does not Stay Clean if Used as Bedding

Straw bedding will not stay clean because it does not absorb moisture well. A good bedding material must remain clean and moist of the time because:

  • Chickens like to have dust bathe in bedding
  • Chickens usually eat their bedding and poop
  • Chickens easily get poop on the feet

It may Contain Pesticides

Most farmers use pesticides in their gardens when growing crops, and therefore the leftover Straw may contain them. Pesticides are usually harmful to chickens and can even lead to death. It is important to confirm from your supplier if they used pesticides on the Straw before you purchase it. 

It can Lead to Impacted Crops

Straw is more likely to cause impacted crops if your chickens eat a lot of it. This can be more challenging if you are using non-chopped Straw as its long pieces can clamp up and block the digestive tract. Impaction is a serious health issue that can kill your chicken. However, it can be cured if noticed early. You can reduce the risk of crop impaction by using chopped Straw.

You can only Buy Cheap Straw in Large Quantities

Although Straw is cheap in most areas, you can only buy it in large quantities. You will have to buy more bales of it. If your coop is small, it means you will have to store it in a dry and well-ventilated place. 

Straw may be Harder to Clean out

Straw is usually a lightweight bedding material. However, it may get heavy and clumped up with chicken droppings with time. It can therefore be harder to remove it from your coop when coding regular cleaning.

Insects and Rodents like Straw Bedding

Rodents like to hide and nest in organic bedding such as Straw. Besides, using Straw in your coop will also attract insects that like decaying organic bedding.

Conclusion

Straw is one of the most common materials used for bedding in coops. It has several pros, such as being a good absorbent as well as low in dust. However, it also has a few cons that you must be aware of when using it.

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