Friday, November 28, 2014

Using leaves as coop bedding

Every fall I rake up the dried leaves and throw some in the runs for the chickens/guineas. They dig through them happily, finding bugs and tiny bits of grasses to eat. Sadly I can only get dry leaves once a year, but since they are absolutely free I never waste a chance to use them when I can. This year I decided to use them as bedding in the largest chicken coop I have. Technically it's the guinea coop, same idea though. 

This October I did my traditional fall clean out when I get rid of all the bedding from the last year. I use the deep litter method and it's been working great in this coop. The deep litter method requires quite a bit of bedding to start with, so all I did was fill the coop with dry leaves. I raked some up into bags to add in once the chickens broke up the leaves a bit. That's it! So far so good. I really like using leaves in the coop as well as the run. It's cheaper, easy & the chickens seem to love it. Read on for all the details....

leaves | chicken coop bedding

How to use dry leaves as coop bedding

  • Leaves must be completely dry before using. 
  • Leaves break down quickly and a lot more then wood shavings, hay or straw. So you'll need what looks to be "too much" to start with. 
  • Rake up any dry leaves you don't use and bag them up to add to the coop later. Otherwise you'll be waiting for a dry day and turning leaf piles to dry them out enough to use them. *pain in the butt* 
  • Leaves make a great start if you're using the deep litter method. 
  • If you decide to shred your leaves first, just run them over with the lawn mower then dump the bag full into the coop.
  • Every few days I scatter a handful of scratch, BOSS or other treats in the leaves to encourage the chickens to scratch and turn the leaves. 
    The pros:
    • Since leaves fall from the trees they are essentially a free bedding source.
    • Neighbors won't care if you take their extra leaves especially if you rake them up too. (You might even get someone to pay you for leaf raking and removal!)
    • Since leaves fall from the trees they are essentially a free bedding source.
    • Neighbors won't care if you take their extra leaves especially if you rake them up too. (You might even get someone to pay you for leaf raking and removal!)
    • You can find free leaves already bagged up on sites like Freecycle
    • Leaves are a great money saver for large coops that takes several bags of shavings to fill.  
    • Dry leaves add the 'brown' to the chicken poop which is 'green'. Give them some time to mix it all together and you'll have excellent homemade compost!  
    • Adding new leaves is a great boredom buster. Add them on a rainy 'can't go outside to play' day and the chickens will have a grand old time scratching around in them.

    The cons: 
    • You only have 1 time of year to collect the leaves, and it has to be done on a dry day.  
    • Leaves tend to mat down when wet so it's very important to clean up any water bowl spills or rain leaks right away.
    • Since chickens have a hard time turning wet leaves over, they can get moldy.
    • Avoid using a lot of oak leaves. A few are ok, but oak leaves contain tannins that can harm you chickens if they happen to eat too many. They shouldn't be eating the leaves, but why take chances? 
    • Bagged leaves need stored in a covered area. If moisture gets in the bag they could start to rot and become useless for the chickens.  
    That's it. Leaves are an excellent replacement for wood shavings, hay and straw. They're free and they're already in your backyard! What more could you ask for?


    If you're into using alternatives to traditional coop bedding, check out what happened when I used Shredded newspaper as coop bedding.

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    1. I agree! I've been dumping dry leaves into the coops (I have two) since I cleaned them out in September. It's free, the chickens love the leaves, and my neighbors are happy to bag them up and deliver them. Win, win!

      1. That awesome! I bet your chickens love it!

        Thanks for stopping by!


    2. Great post, very informative and helpful. I love using leaves in my coop, garden and our wooded trails too. I prefer the oak leaves (we have 47 White Oak Trees) in the coop (and on the woods trails) since it takes them a long time to break down. I use my son's maple leaves for the garden beds because they do break down quickly and over the winter they break up and start to turn into wonderful soil by summer. I use more oak leaves in the vegetable garden on the pathways and edges to keep down the weeds. This is Permaculture gardening at its best....waste nothing! Donna from the Small House Homestead.