When we first got chickens, over 6 years ago now, we began by using straw in their coop. They loved to kick it around and pick out any seeds. But I quickly learned that it got wet and soggy with their droppings. Once it was wet and soggy, it was also super stinky and much heavier, making it much more effort to clean out the coop (which happened every month or two). So,I moved on to pine shavings. I tried using the deep litter method, piling the shavings up over their poop and letting it compost. Then, I only needed to clean the coop 2 or 3 times a year. The pine shavings absorbed the moisture and smell of their droppings much better, but it was stil a stinky, time consuming mess to clean. (And I always ended up feeling pretty rough (respiratory) afterwards). I thought, “there has to be another way.”
When I saw this post on sand in the chicken coop, I thought I might have found my answer. I cleaned the pine shavings out of the coop, sprayed the roosts and corners with a dilute Neem oil spray (to kill any mites or pests), and replaced the pine shavings with sand! I got a truck load of river sand for $24 and used about 1/4 of it for my 108 square foot coop. This much sand will probably last me 2+ years! (so far, much cheaper than pine or straw!)
When I got up in the morning, all of the poop was piled on top of the sand and was easily removed with a scoop (I used a kitty litter scoop, but plan on making something a little bigger, with a longer handle, for ease of getting under the roosts). The poop goes into a bucket that is then dumped into the compost pile. I rake out the sand and it’s as good as new! No smell, no mess, and very easy clean up! Plus, the sand scrubs the chicken’s feet nice and clean, instead of sticking to them in a stinky clump. This is even more important when you have feather footed ladies, like my Silkies and Marans.
Zinnea was happy to inspect her new digs. So happy, in fact, that she decided not to lay in her laying boxes, but waited until night time and plopped the egg down on the sand!