Whether it’s to keep themselves busy, simply taking up a new hobby, or even wanting an extra source of food, more and more people take up keeping farm animals. Chickens are by far the most popular choice here since they do not take up too much space and as such are convenient for both rural and more developed areas.
Let’s say you’ve decided to take up chicken keeping as well. Chickens are extremely agile and curious creatures and as such need to be contained in an area that is safe for them (to protect them from predators such as foxes or overly aggressive dogs) as well as providing them with their own space where they feel safe and can lay eggs on their own accord.
This problem of chicken-keeping space has today been mostly solved by providing them with a chicken coop, a specialized area containing both a closed-off part for the chickens to lay eggs and sleep, and an open part which is used for feeding and chicken activity during daytime hours.
However, there are some nuances to your choice of a chicken coop. While some people choose to keep their chickens in old, run-down buildings that have been repurposed for such use, others buy or build their own specialized coops. Whichever you choose, one of the nuances which you should pay attention to is the flooring your chickens are going to walk on daily.
This article will provide you with:
different ideas for chicken coop flooring
benefits and drawbacks to each type of flooring
focus on the three most common types of flooring
additional flooring coverings
Why use flooring in your chicken coop?
Okay – let’s say you have found an area you will use for your chicken-raising activities. You have fenced off an area and put a small shed-like building for them to roost on. However, after a few days, you start seeing that your chickens are getting dirtier and dirtier, which can lead to some serious health concerns not only for your flock but to you as an owner as well.
If inadequate flooring is chosen, you might see an onset of animal life you wouldn’t want near your animals, such as rodent or bug infestations, none of which are desirable.
Therefore, flooring choice can affect both the health and comfort of your flock, so be sure to check all your options before opting for one choice or another.
Concrete is a classic. It is used in most building types; its durability is a big factor, and it’s easily cleanable due to not being absorbent. Therefore, the maintenance doesn’t stray beyond keeping it clean. It keeps any type of rodent out as they can be easily spotted when inside without any place to burrow so your chickens and their eggs should be safe and sound.
However, in practice, concrete floors have found their opposition and for a good reason. Pouring concrete is simultaneously not very hard, but not all too easy to do either and can seem daunting to a complete beginner and they might shy away for this very reason. This goes double for the fact that if you decide chicken keeping is not for you, you’re stuck with a concrete slab in your backyard.
The other reason why people may feel aversion toward concrete floors is that lots of freak injuries may occur. Chickens may get restless and even fight in their coops. As concrete is a hard surface, during these fights they may injure themselves and have trouble walking. Rough concrete also can lead to scratches and consequentially bacterial infections.
Concrete flooring may also be susceptible to variations in temperature, as it may get hotter than the ground would but be significantly cold as well in the colder parts of the year.
Parting words: Concrete is an option with perhaps the strongest benefits but considerable drawbacks as well. Having your mind at ease as no rodents would be able to get in easily and not having to spend too much time on petty maintenance can prove invaluable to less hands-on owners, whereas the importance of chicken safety, difficulty of build and weather influence cannot be understated.
Fortunately, most of these drawbacks can be circumvented by using a lot of soft bedding (which would be often cleaned), employing the help of more experienced people and/or using coop-safe heaters. However, all of this is extra-work and should be taken into consideration.
PROS: Rodent-proof, durable, low-maintenance
CONS: Potential injuries, difficulty of build and removal, susceptible to temperature changes
Time for another classic option. Since most coops are built from wood anyway, it makes sense to put wood flooring as well, since it’s cheap and easy to do. Wood will also do well in repelling rodents, although less so in the long term.
The issue of longevity stems from the fact that wood is absorbent, and the coop is an environment where there’s going to be waste. This waste can be cleaned, but unlike with concrete, some of it will surely fall down the cracks and be impossible to clean. Long-term, this means structural integrity can be compromised and you’re bound to have to replace parts of the flooring. Water damage is the most obnoxious one here, as you cannot easily prevent it and there’s bound to be some damage from one water source or another.
While wood is also softer than concrete, the damage can cause needle-like splinters which can cause pricks or even embed themselves in the feet of your chicken.
Lastly, even if the wood is effective in repelling rodents, this does not mean it will be so forever. Rodents are notoriously crafty and will, with time be able to dig through the wood (especially damaged wood) and start making trouble in your coop.
Parting words: Wood is clearly a choice for people who do not want to expend too much energy into providing their chickens with more than is necessary. Wood is cheap, easy to install, and does a decent job but not doesn’t offer much more. Experienced users may want to look further since wood’s durability and harder maintenance may leave a lot to be desired.
PROS: Cheap and easy installation, relatively rodent-proof
CONS: Eventual degradation, water damage, harder to clean
No flooring is also flooring, eh? Well, in some cases. You might have seen this when on the road through a lot of more rural areas where you can see farmers allow their chicken to run around more freely. They do not even concern themselves with flooring. How is this acceptable, suddenly?
Well, if you think about it, dirt flooring is the most natural flooring one can get. Therefore, injury risk is minimal and a lot of waste is simply absorbed into the ground, making cleaning easier in that regard.
However, if you’re thinking about dirt as your choice of floor, it is highly recommended that you put the coop in a place where rainwater or snow won’t settle for too much. Too much water will make a lot of mud and this is not ideal for either you or the chicken. It will make cleaning harder, feeding messier, and getting from point A to point B a chore. This could be offset by building a walkway or “feeding points” but at that point, you’ve got to be asking yourself: is the dirt really worth it?
Furthermore, dirt gives absolutely zero protection against rodents which will find their way into your coop either looking for food or for shelter and warmth. While chickens can deal with them on their own, it’s generally better to just avoid taking a chance on the whole flock getting sick due to disease carried by a mouse.
Parting words: Dirt flooring is generally not recommended if you do not plan on having a large flock. While cheap and efficient, as well as natural, it does not provide the owner with any ease of access or the chicken with any protection from uninvited guests.
Dirt is in a weird spot where beginners might want to use it since it does not require anything of the owner yet is also used by larger free-range farms due to anything else being too much work.
Pros: cheap, little to no installation needed, natural
Cons: needs planning, can get messy, not resistant to rodents
Plastic flooring is a new way of keeping your chicken safe and sound. It offers ease of build and transport (since it comes pre-fabricated), easy cleaning, and longevity in exchange for being a bit more expensive and an option for smaller flocks exclusively.
Therefore, it can be an option for the more specific breeds of chicken which are not great in number but are valued by the owner along with their time.
Pros: Easy to clean, no build required, rodent-proof
Cons: Only for a smaller number of chicken, more expensive
Rubber flooring is durable, lasts for a long time, comfortable, easily customizable due to being cuttable and comfortable for the chicken. Well, seems we got our winner, don’t we? Well, let’s not be too hasty.
While rubber flooring does seem to have everything and that’s not too far from the truth, it can also get pricey, especially if the coop is big. Rubber mats also don’t work that well on their own and are better used as additional cover on your flooring base. It is less important what you use as a base, as the sturdiness of quality rubber mats works really well on basically any surface, but keep in mind that you’ll need to level the base out in order for the mat to fit well.
You’ll also probably do well by not covering the entire coop in rubber and leaving some space for the chicken to do their dirt baths.
Pros: Durability, non-absorbent material means it’s easy to clean, customization options
Cons: Needs a base, can get pricey
Wire flooring seems like a logical idea. Make the flooring wire-only to remove the need to clean it due to droppings simply falling down the gaps. As chicken are birds, they should be able to easily stand on wires similarly to their flying brethren, right? Well, not exactly.
Firstly, they’re much heavier than a regular bird and from an evolutionary aspect not used to this kind of walking, and this means they’ll have additional pressure on their legs. Therefore, more injuries are possible.
Secondly, the “gaps” for the droppings are a much better idea than in practice. The waste will still sometimes get stuck on the wires on which the chicken may then walk and this is especially true if you add narrow strips of wood (called “batten”) in order to make the walking easier.
Lastly, wire flooring is completely off the mark if there are hatchlings, which will routinely fall through the gaps and have to be “rescued”.
All in all, we do not recommend this type of flooring.
Pros: Ideally, no waste in the chicken area of the coop
Cons: Ineffective in practice, physically hard for the chicken, won’t work for baby chicks.
There are several beddings that can be used as additions to your regular flooring in order to make the chicken more comfortable when walking or simply having it to absorb excess moisture. Here are three of the most common:
Sand absorbs a small excess of waste and moisture very well. It is also cheap and easily obtainable, but we recommend using construction sand.
You should however pay mind to the weight that sand can add as it can add up quickly, so flat floors are best with this type of bedding.
When keeping farm animals, straw is basically unavoidable. It can be found everywhere and chicken does not need much as they do not partake in consuming it. However, if you do not take care of changing it regularly, straw can get really wet and as such is a prime feasting spot for both bacteria and beetles, none of which is very hygienic.
Pine shavings are considered to be the most popular bedding due to efficiency, coziness, comfort, absorbent properties which make it easy to maintain. However, the absorbency is lower than sand so the excrement may stay wetter for longer than it would in the sand, so keep in mind that there’s no perfect material one way or another.
Every chicken coop needs flooring. Whichever flooring you think is the most appropriate for your needs, be sure to check the availability of options and pick what fits best. There are no clear “best options” and each person may find different options more or less attractive.
Wooden flooring is easy and cheap to make but requires care. Cement floors don’t require much of anything once done but can be a pain to add and/or remove. Dirt flooring is the easiest but without prior planning may make a mess.
Advanced users may try other options such as rubber flooring or even plastic, and adding different floor beddings may just be a step away.
Either way, we’re sure that these recommendations will help you in your quest for building a perfect chicken coop for your animals.