I Want My Free E-Book On Egg Laying Chickens

Sand In Your Chicken Coop-Should You Use It?


Sand in your chicken coop is a good question. 

Most folks use conventional bedding materials in the coop and run. 

Spreading straw, hay, or similar over the floors and in the nest boxes.

Some people, however, use sand as a flooring material. 

This prompted us to look at the positives and negatives of using sand as a bedding material in the coop and run.

Here we will give you reasons for and against and let you decide whether or not this is for you and your flock.

If you decide it is for you, we also have a section in this article about how to use sand in your coop and which type.

Should you Use Sand in Your Coop?

Sand In Your Chicken Coop

There seem to be two camps in the sand issue – either for or against, with few people taking the middle road of compromise.

It would seem you either love it or hate it!

Reasons against Sand for Your Chicken Coop or Run

  • Sand has little in the way of insulating properties, unlike hay, straw, etc.
  • Cold in winter, if wet, it can freeze
  • Hot in summer, possible to burn the chicken’s feet
  • No bugs or worms for the birds to search for
  • Bacteria can thrive

Reasons to Use Sand in Your Chicken Coop and Run

  • Dries out the poop, fewer bacteria
  • Doesn’t retain moisture, better drainage
  • Inexpensive
  • Eco-friendly
  • Cleaner chicken feet, shorter nails

How to Set Up Sand in Your Coop

The initial setting up of a sand-based coop and/or run is probably the most time-consuming and expensive part of the process – not to mention heavy work.

You will need to calculate how much sand you need for the given area.

For example, an area of 8ft x 12ft covered to a depth of 6 inches would require approximately 2 ½ tons of river sand. 

This costs around $25.00-40.00 per ton.

You will need a strong back and arms or sufficient funds to employ someone to do the hauling and settling for you.

Obviously, before adding the sand, you should ensure your coop’s floor is strong enough to support the added weight of the sand.

How to Set Up Sand in Your Run

Rooster Walking on Sand

If you’re planning to use sand in your run, you must prepare the ground for sand.

If your run area is a muddy mess in the winter and spring, you might consider laying down 3-4 inches of gravel under the sand. This allows for better drainage.

When the entire area around the coop and run is always wet and muddy, it might be best to consider laying down some drainage tiles first.

This option is expensive, but the benefits will be better ground to walk on and fewer mosquitoes!

If you haven’t sited your coop, now’s a good time to reconsider placement and move it to a drier location.

Although the sand is said to provide better drainage, it won’t if you don’t prepare the area well.

Simply laying sand on top of mud may disguise the problem for a year or so. Eventually, the sand will sink into the mud necessitating new sand.

Which Type of Sand Should You Use?

In my research, I found several different types of sand – who knew?

Sand that is considered unacceptable for coops and runs is playing sand and sandbox sand.

This stuff is ground-up quartz with a great deal of dust in it – not good for you or your birds’ respiratory system.

This is probably the stuff that can freeze solid in winter, cook the chickens’ feet in summer, and has minimal insulation properties.

Also, this type of sand should not be used in a brooder, in my opinion. 

A few articles have mentioned small chicks eating the sand and dying from an impacted crop.

All-purpose sand is considered ‘ok.’ The best sand is construction, bank run, or river sand.

This stuff looks like what you would see on a riverbed. It contains multiple sizes of particles, including small pebbles, etc. This stuff is great for the birds’ grit intake.

Sand In Your Chicken Coop Maintenance and Replacement Intervals

Sand In Your Chicken Coop

Once the hard work of laying the sand is done, maintenance is pretty standard.

Most folks do a daily ‘poop scoop’ and are done.

Some folks ‘freshen’ the sand using PDZ (zeolite), wood ashes, or Diatomaceous Earth – it also encourages dust bathing. They can be used separately or together, your choice.

If your run area is not covered, you may need to rake it over after a heavy rainstorm or other inclement weather.

Otherwise, the area should be raked and turned over at least once a month to prevent compacting.

You could either hand-rake or use a small rototiller to turn it over.

In watching my chickens, they love nothing better than a good dirt bath. I’m not sure how they would feel about sand and pebbles…I did ask them, and they were non-committal.

The ‘pro’ folks seem to enjoy the cleanliness of the sand-type run.

They say there is little to no odor, flies are minimal, and it is very little to compost!

Admittedly, it would seem that cleanliness is a huge bonus to the chicken keeper. Still, I haven’t met too many fastidious hens in my time.

My ladies take a positive delight in messing up a clean coop and creating a small dust storm!

One argument was that it kept the chicken’s feet cleaner and nails shorter.

If your current run is muddy in the wet seasons, I’m sure this would help keep their feet cleaner and keep the nests and eggs much cleaner.

Having fewer flies around the coop would be nice. Still, if you do a quick ‘housekeeping’ every day by removing the fresh deposits and hanging flypapers, flies should be minimal anyway.

There is no such thing as a ‘maintenance free’ hen house – unless you hire out the daily chores, and what fun would there be in that?

Health Problems with Using Sand in Your Chicken Coop

Chick in Fine Sand

We have already mentioned that sand should not be used in brooders due to the risk of crop impaction.

Another issue is that fresh poop would ‘adhere’ to the sand. 

Effectively disguising it, young chicks might ingest a lot of poop, leaving them susceptible to coccidiosis.

Some sources stated that sand was a good medium for hiding and growing E. coli and coccidiosis. 

Yet, others state it is an excellent medium for inhibiting bacteria such as E. coli and coccidiosis. Apparently, even the experts can’t agree!

It may be true that sand dissipates most of the poop produced, but the cecal poops will trickle down into the lower layers.

So I’m not convinced that it would be much more germ-free than regular straw if you look deep enough.

Of course, if you have an OCD personality, then whatever you choose as ‘flooring’ will be uber-clean!

Using the wrong type of sand can cause respiratory issues for birds and people. If you decide to use sand, make sure it is the right type.

Another person mentioned the possibility of sand fleas. 

While actual sand fleas are not insects and will not bite humans, sand flies will bite humans and chickens and may live on the sandy floor if the climate is suitable.

If you are thinking about adding sand to your coop out of curiosity, perhaps try putting it in a section of the coop and leaving the rest as your current bedding.

Your chickens will undoubtedly love the new dust bath space (as that is what they will most likely view it as) and will happily fluff themselves up and cover their feathers with the sand.

Test it out and see how it works for you and your birds before committing to the new type better. You may love it…or you may hate it.

Sand In Your Chicken Coop Summary

The use of sand in poultry houses is not new. 

The first-ever written word on the subject was printed back in 1919 regarding egg farming in California.

It would seem that the use of sand didn’t catch on for whatever reason.

Most large poultry houses and the majority of backyard folks use some other substrate such as; hay, straw, shavings, mulch, and leaf litter.

Over the next year, I will add on to my coops, and I will try sand in one of the runs to see how it works out.

If it doesn’t, I will just add some soil and grass seed and wait for the following spring.

As always, do your research ahead of time. It may save you money in the long run.

The reasons for the ‘for/against’ perspectives have merit, but some are overstated. 

It’s up to you to look carefully at each one and decide if it is valid.

Many folks who used sand and were generally unhappy with the results had used the wrong type of sand – hence many complaints – were too wet, frozen, cold, etc.

If you decide to use sand, as always, do your homework and choose the correct item(s) for the project you have in mind.

Do you have sand in your coop? Let us know how it works for you in the comments below – any problems and solutions…

Read Next:  Bantam Chickens: Breeds, Egg Laying, Size and Care Guide


Sand In Your Chicken Coop

53 thoughts on “Sand In Your Chicken Coop-Should You Use It?

  1. I used sand in my coop before my girls were old enough to safely free range all day. It did seem great for a lot of reasons you listed but the down side was I couldn’t keep out ants, and food was getting mixed in that made it hard to get out & I worry of them eating old spoiled food. When hurricane Irma came along and flooded the flooring, I was left with a heavy stinking mess. With their coop on concrete, I opted to only put a box of sand in their coop and leave the floor bare. No more ant & flies, no more stinky mess & a cleanup job in 5-7 minutes daily.

  2. Always read your NEWS!!! My girls (Hens) and I are so much happier for your knowledge. By the way, we use hay in our coop and the girls love scratching around in it! During COLD weather hay is perfect!

  3. We use washed construction sand in our big coop and I LOVE it. So much easier to clean the chunks out, even the frozen urine only goes so far down and works like clumping cat litter. This is the first year we haven’t had even one chicken with respiratory issues. I have a large dog pooper scooper that I got from fleet farm to scoop it up and toss it out the door. When the temp dropped to 35 BELOW we did add some dry straw to the floor for extra comfort since we don’t heat our coops. The nesting boxes have plenty of straw. The hens did fine, my big Bielfelder roo got a little bit of frostbite on his comb and wattles. In the little coop, with the bantams and large cochins, we have a layer of sand and then 6 inches of straw. I take the top layer of straw off every week and turn the rest. The bantams do fine too. We live in a very sandy soil area so our run has excellent drainage. We throw all our grass clippings, leaves, and the straw from the coops in the run. The chickens love turning everything over. and we now have fabulous night crawlers too. We have basically no smell with 35 chickens 30 feet from our house and very few flies. We use two bug zappers just outside the coops and the flies die and fall, making fun crispy snacks for the girls in the morning. I am so grateful someone put me on to bug zappers! Please DO NOT use sticky fly paper in coops as flying birds will fly into it at some point.

  4. I use sand here in the Mohave dessert and I love it. It is only in the coop though. Just dirt everywhere else. It is so easy to clean. I still use wood shavings in the laying boxes.

    1. I’m in the Mojave desert too. I only have the natural sandy dirt floor in mine & they seem to be doing fine. I spray it down good every night and rake every morning. I have been worried about them in the 114° heat day after day, so I’ve been putting a couple of frozen milk jugs of water in there. That did the trick. They’re happy. I’m new to chickens. Just got them in May. I’m hoping to see Eggs in September.

  5. I have been using sand in my coop since we started having chickens, we got as chicks. We use the sand that comes in the long sand bags that you use in the winter because it is clean sand. I do use PDZ as well as Diatomaceous Earth. I have never had a problem with any of my chicks or chickens. I have fashioned a large scoop out of a 5 prong pitch fork using 1/4 in hardware cloth on the fork, it makes a great scoop. I clean my coop once a day and put in new sand twice a year. I use about 10 bags of sand and all the old goes in my garden. My chickens feet are clean and because of the Diatomaceous Earth, free of bugs. All my girls and boys are happy and healthy, I will always use and recommend the right sand.

      1. I saw them at Lowe’s, but there could be different kinds, I wish I knew what one is ok!

      2. Hey everyone!
        I have had chickens all of my life, but they’ve always been free-range. Now that we have two large dogs my current flock have to be kept in a large pen with a coup/enclosed run in the middle. The tip of my rooster’s comb has been blue on and off for close to two weeks and now he and two out of five hens have been sneezing so I’m looking to re-floor the run to see if it’s a respiratory issue. There seems to be a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to different flooring, but I don’t want to use wood chips on the floor because it’s very wet in SC (a lot of rain plus constant humidity) and the whole pen continues to get very muddy. I am considering laying down pebbles then layering course sand over it. Does anyone know if this is a good idea? They are constantly muddy and like most chickens they adore dust bathing. Are the pebbles on the bottom going to help with drainage? Also, what sand would be the best to use? I’d like a sand that they can easily dust themselves in, but I know not to get too fine of sand. Any advice for non free-range chickens would be helpful!

  6. I have a question as far as bedding for the coop. We have a lot of cedar trees that we use for firewood. We have a lot of shavings. My friend told me that it’s not good to use cedar shavings in the coop because it has too much oil in them. Is my friend right? I would appreciate any answers thank you

  7. Thank you! This was so helpful! I really appreciate your articles. I’m loving my chickens more as a result of what I learn here. Cheers!

  8. I live in south Florida, all I’ve got is sandy soil in my run. My girls love it, easy to dig in & easy for dusting. I do have grass, so I move the run every week to a different location,, now there are holes all over my yard! Lol!

    1. I live in southwest Florida and was wondering if the sand you are using is the natural Florida sand in every yard?? That is what is in my run now. I am thinking about getting a few pieces of sod for one corner for them and replace as they dig it up. Would this work? I can’t move the coop so trying to keep my 4 girls happy.

      1. They will tear up the sod in 2 days max. I dont think it is worth it because you will have to replace it often. The sand you are using is fine.

      2. If you’re going to try the grass route, make them a “salad box.” I have a 6′ x 3′ box made from 2x4s and 1″ hardware cloth over top. The chooks can eat the grass and other planted goodies that poke through the hardware cloth without scratching up the roots.

  9. I also don’t understand why play box sand is not suitable for chickens yet it is perfectly safe for human “chicks”!! I used play box sand for my chick’s because it was safe for children. They showed no sign of illness!
    I live in Australia .

    1. Actually if you read on the bags of play sand it does have a ‘warning’ that it can cause cancer. The first time I saw that I couldn’t believe it that it was being sold for children to play in . . but yes!

  10. I have been using river sand in my coop and run. I love it! I use cat litter scoops duck taped to a pole and clean up is a breeze. I have a cement floor heated coop with lots of ventilation and a fan. I use DE in the sand for dust bathing. I have to mix it in well or my girls avoid the DE. I have used landscape cloth in the coop; but we live in a wet climate and landscape cloth can fray and let the sand get wet so so I will put down greenhouse plastic under my sand. The outside run is covered because it rains here alot. (Vancouver). My chickens don’t like rain! I will change out the sand every 6 months but I don’t need 6 inches in the coop, I use about 2 to 3 inches. I disagree that the sand harbors more bacteria than other types of litter because it makes cleanup so easy and sand desicates bugs. I like that there are less bugs for the chickens to eat so they have less risk of worms.There is no offensive odour or flies, and the girls can use the grit, dig and bath in the sand. It really is multipurpose. Also I read that straw can get ingested and tangled in the crop so to avoid straw with chickens:)

    1. I’m thinking of trying sand, sounds good. If you put DE in the sand they are probably ingesting some, which keeps away worms. I usually use shaving for bedding and over the winter on the nice days I put hay outside for them to stand on out of the snow and they loved scratching through it and picking off bits of grain. Never had a problem with ingesting it.

  11. My view is that the BEST bedding for chickens is wood shavings. It is not expensive (once you find where it is available), is easy to bring in, is light, mixes nicely with the manure, will become great garden soil once the manure composts in it. You can find data on how to do it on line. It does not smell, tends to be clean, is healthy for chickens.

  12. I really enjoy your newsletter and look forward to receiving it. I have had backyard chickens for almost 6 years and there is always something new to be learned.

  13. Have you mix sand (desert sand) with manure from layer? I am looking to see if is possible to mix it an reduce the humidity and odor. Somebody has experience with this?

  14. I’m about to acquire my first flock. I have a coop and enclosed run. We will move it every week but I decided for in the coop to use sand. This was suggested by the hatchery that my chickens are coming from. I was researching and came across DE and PDZ. I thought to mix the DE with the sand in the coop and to use PDZ in the run. Is this a good plan?

  15. Love your book and read the blog often. We will be getting our pullets soon. The chicken run is hard packed clay soil, native to NC. We put in 4-6 inches of masonry sand, it rained hard, like sideways, the sand was soaked. It’s now in the 8o’s but the sand is not drying out. What can we do? What can we add to make this right? We want to get the girls soon.

    1. Drainage is the issue here, best option is first to put gravel base to irrigate and drain, and sand on top of that. Eventually things will settle and gravel will pack in the clay, and the sand base will be more drainable.

  16. Looking to get our first chicks in a couple of weeks. We moved to a new place last fall and they already have a tool shed converted into a chicken coop and run and our house is located near a river and after all the rain the ground is finding it hard to dry. (we live in the 4 corners area) My question is this. The coop has no floor and after leaving the door open. it has plenty of open air holes for air flow the floor is still wet and muddy. I was thinking to put down some pavers to keep the chickens away from possible wet conditions in the coop. on top of the pavers i was thinking 6″ of sand. would this be too much? not enough? I am not worried about the run i just want a nice place for them in the coop.

    1. Two things to remember Christine. DRY and controllable DRAFT. Meaning, it needs to always be dry and you need to control the air, a wet draft mix and your asking for trouble. Pavers to stop the air flow and 6″ sand is great, if you can mix with DE here and there for their dust bathing and mite control even better. I have similar wet conditions and it can get frustrating.

  17. When I first began keeping chickens I used wood shavings or wood pellets inside the coop. The wood shavings were super stinky, grow ALOT (and I do mean a ton) of bacteria, were expensive over time because how often they had to be changed and labor intensive to replace because it had to be completely removed. After a bout of coccidiosis ran through the coop wiping out my chicks and two adult birds, I got rid of the shavings completely.
    I’ve been using children’s play beach sand inside the coop for several years and I’ve never had another outbreak of coccidiosis since, in fact there has been no viral/bacterial/respitory illnesses or mites/lice/worms in my birds whatsoever. I have never amended the sand with other products. My neighbor still uses wood shavings and still has frequent outbreaks of coccidiosis, lice and mites. My coop never smells like chicken poop, my chickens feet and eggs are cleaner. Also, the chickens will use the sand for dust bathing which has been very effective in keeping parasites away and I don’t find the play beach sand too dusty until it gets covered in bird dander.
    I absolutely LOVE the sand!!! I lightly spray the sand with a water spray bottle too keep the dust from the bird dander down and use a square piece of 1/2 inch hardware cloth mesh threaded over a pitch fork (could use 1/4 inch mesh if you wanted it cleaner)..makes a perfect litter scooper. I cover the plywood coop floor with about 3 inches of sand, scoop the dried poop three times a week and toss in the garden. I do this until the sand is almost gone, then replenish (about twice a year). I never have to thoroughly remove the substrate in the coop as is done with straw or shavings. Another benefit is that sand does not rot like straw, hay or wood that leaves behind a stinky slime when wet with droppings or when the birds come in dripping wet (my birds don’t mind some rain), so the plywood floor is better protected and stays dry. The chicken poop clumps up in the sand making scooping super easy, fast, and it’s true there is WAY less compost to deal with.
    The price can’t be beat either, 1 yard of beach play sand costs $34 dollars and is enough to cover my 8×8 coop all year, plus fill a 6×6 sandbox for kiddos in the summer. I have 24 birds and I don’t have to scoop daily.
    I live in the Willamette Valley (Oregon) which has a moderate temperature throughout the year (so coop insulation is not an issue), but very wet, moist, and muddy. I will point out that sand is not so great when it is soaking wet, I would not recommend it for runs exposed to rain and use it in dry areas only.

  18. I live in Iowa, to Long tubes of sand here are the ones that are used for putting in your car or the back of your truck to give more traction during the winter months in the snow driving. I honestly don’t know what it’s called otherwise.

    1. I looked up ‘long tube sand’ and Home Depot has 60 lbs bags of it by Quikrete. They just call it tube sand.

  19. We are just changing over to sand. Have the gravel down. Sand is being delivered tomorrow. Should I lay landscaping fabric to keep the sand from washing in the ares exposed to rain?

    1. How deep of sand are you laying? If you do not put erosion protection your sand will go through the gravel base absolutely, but you need a thicker layer of sand or your chickens will tear the fabric out as well.

  20. Hi all,
    What size of drainage rock(gravel) would be most appropriate to use underneath the sand? I’m in the process of moving my ladies into the coop from their current home and am planning on using approx 6-8inches of river bank sand for the coop+run bedding. My coop flooring is dirt, in a soggy/boggy type area with lots of ventilation provided by the chicken wire used for the surrounding wall + the roof is completely covered with a heavy duty tarp to keep the rain from getting in.

  21. After reading all the pros and cons, decided to give sand a Go and it has been life changing! We’re in SC and have very wet winters. The soil is a filthy mess with 12 hens when it rains and tried shavings but they get bogged down and nasty and same with hay. Construction sand has been a life saver. Still shavings in nesting boxes and one enclosed nighttime coop but sand otherwise. Drains well, easy to rake and clean, keeps odor down and eggs cleaner. Wish I knew this trick years ago 😉

  22. I use construction grade sand. Provides insulation on the floor of coop. Liquids drain into sand. Cuts down on odor. Cat litter scoop cleans out solids in coop, rake in run . Have small coop. Beach or sandbox sand stays wet and compacts and freezes. The girls love to take dust baths. Have had it for 3 yrs. Now adding more whenever the rock quarry opens for the season. 1/2 Yard runs about $25 if you pick up. They will deliver. Check landscaping places also.

    1. I put wood shavings mixed with DE in the nesting boxes. Had my chickens for three years without any problems. (construction sand on the floor)

  23. I live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and have sandy soil, but the outside runs of all my livestock would be muddy during the rainy seasons so I started using construction sand about three years ago (also called -10) at the suggestion of the rock company to raise the ground level and have been VERY happy with the results! The sand becomes somewhat solid and cuts down the “mud” tracked into the buildings. I use shavings on top of feed sacks making it easier to change bedding as needed inside the chicken house which has a wooden floor and have commercial nest boxes with little or no bedding in them. I also make DE dusting boxes inside the chicken houses. I have more than 50 chickens and have had poultry for more than 40 years. I also have MANY other kinds of animals.

  24. I put the sand in my coop today and it is wet from rain. How do I dry this before I put the birds out which I was hoping to be Tomorrow?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *