For the chicken owner who lives in an area afflicted with dogs or other carnivorous animals, or who does not have the space to let his chickens run completely free, a chicken run is the ideal compromise between safety and freedom. Since chickens are burrowing animals, it is a good idea to line the chicken run with at least four inches of bedding.
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All chicken runs should be lined with a material that promotes drainage, since the chickens will be running around and making a mess on it constantly. Straw is one of the most popular materials for chicken run bedding, because it is soft, cheap and makes the chicken run look cute and farm-like. You can also get a few extra bales for decoration. However, straw does have the tendency to mat and cement together as the chickens mess on it and new straw gets layered on top.
Like straw, wood shavings are available in bale form. They are soft and good for drainage, as well as being fun for chickens to dig through. Wood shavings are usually slightly more expensive than straw, but it may depend on where you purchase them. The layers of shavings and chicken mess do not cement together quite as thoroughly as layers of straw, making wood shaving-lined chicken runs easier to clean than those lined with straw.
Wood pellets are small chunks of compressed sawdust that are available at any barbecue or heating supply store. Though they are generally sold to be a heat source or cooking fuel, unused pellets can also be used as chicken run bedding either on their own or mixed with wood shavings. Wood pellets will last longer than straw or shavings, but they are also more expensive and may be more difficult to clean.
Nothing At All
If your chicken run is atop soil that drains water very well, or if you live in a dry, warm climate, you can get away with using just the bare earth as chicken bedding. Just be sure to rake out the waste often, and keep an eye on it to prevent it from getting muddy.
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