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. 

Chicken playing in leaves in chicken coop

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....

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. 

    leaves | chicken coop bedding

    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 or Craigslist
    • 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. Been using leaves the last few years. Chickens love scratching around in them.makes great compost too. Don't spend near as much on bedding now. Hoping to collect from friends this year.

    2. I've been using leaves in my chicken run since last fall and have been very happy. I just dump a large trash bag of dried leaves and the hens go through it and distribute it around the run within a few hours. Within a couple of days the leaves are broken up into smaller pieces. The only negative I've seen is that they get kind funky when it rains. Since I live in the arid southwest, this isn't really a problem for me but I'm thinking that it could be a problem if you live I an area that gets a lot of rain.

      1. Yeah, it might be a problem if there's a lot of rain and no roof over the run. That's a great point. Glad it works out for you!


    3. Hi! Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you like the blog!


    4. I have already tried using dried tree leaves without knowing the consequences and I believed it worked and gave an asset, compost, in the end. Now, reading your report I feel relieved that I did not make a mistake in trying out my leaves idea.

      1. You did not make a mistake, leaves are perfectly safe and the chickens love scratching around in them!