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A guide to chickens and sand 

When it comes to setting up your hen coop and run the options are plentiful; but what about chickens and sand? 

Anecdotally, we’ve heard from many rehomers who choose to use sand as a flooring material in their hens’ run. However, it’s not simply a case of whether or not to use but also what type of sand is safest for your birds. 

Here we’ll explore the pros and cons of using sand in your run to help you make an informed decision. 

Sand in the hen house?

While this may seem like an obvious one, we would not recommend using sand in your hen house. Your birds will much prefer cosying up on a bed of soft straw, such as Dengie Fresh Bed (which also smells great!). 

Sand becomes very cold when wet so really won’t provide a nice environment for your hens come winter, so it’s far better to seek an alternative bedding material. 

Sand in the chicken run?

When it comes to flooring material, it’s not quite as cut and dry. Different people have different preferences, so ultimately it will come down to what works best for you and your set up. 

There are however a few things to consider. 

Play sand vs builder’s sand

It’s vitally important that you do NOT use play sand as material anywhere in your hens run. This type of sand has lots of dust in it which can cause havoc with their respiratory system, plus it is more likely to clump and cause crop impaction. It also does not offer good drainage. 

Instead, opt for a construction-grade sand, otherwise known as builder’s sand, which is much coarser and made up of larger particles. This also makes it good for your hens’ grit consumption. 

The pros of sand

Once you’ve laid down the sand in your run, it won’t need replacing often, if at all. It will simply need refilling every now and then when it gets low, making it a low-maintenance option. 

It’s also super easy to do the daily poo pick, and using a rake regularly can stop any clumps from forming. Since sand does not disintegrate and remains dry, there is likely to be little odour around the run which is an attractive option for hen keepers. 

It could be a good idea to freshen up your sand using some kind of ground sanitiser, and adding a little diatomaceous earth can encourage dust bathing which, as we all know, is essential for our hens’ wellbeing. 

Setting up sand in your run

This is possibly the biggest downfall of using sand: it requires a bit of work before putting it down. 

Drainage is essential in a chicken run, and so we’ve seen it recommended that putting down a layer of gravel first will assist with this. While sand does offer good drainage, you’ll need to ensure that whatever is underneath it offers the same level of drainage, so the sand doesn’t end up swimming in water. 

It’s also worth considering that sand can become hot underfoot during the summer months, as well as dusty. We’ve heard that using a mister, or drenching the sand with a hose, can help combat this. 

Chickens and sand: the bottom line

As we mentioned, what you use in your hen house and coop largely comes down to personal preference, though as we’ve outlined above there are considerations if you opt for sand. 

Make sure you lay down a base with good drainage and ensure you only use construction-grade sand as flooring material. 

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