What is good chicken coop flooring?

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This chicken coop uses pine shaving on the coop floor.
Good flooring. You might hear that term a lot when you're getting set up for baby chicks or chickens: get good chicken coop flooring! And "Of course!" you think. "I want to use good flooring for my flock of chickens." But what exactly does that entail?

Essentially, chickens need solid flooring with some traction, ideally with access to the ground so they can forage.

What flooring NOT to use

Wire coop flooring is bad for a few reasons. It can seem attractive, because it lets droppings pass right through. But adult birds are relatively heavy, and wire is hard on their feet. In addition, wire flooring doesn't allow for the natural wear on their nails, so they can overgrow and make it difficult for your chickens to walk.

By contrast, baby chicks aren't heavy enough when they're young to make wire too hard on their feet, so long as the wire mesh is fine enough that they don't get tripped up. But even so, wire flooring baffles the natural instinct for chickens of any age to scratch and forage from the ground, so it's just not the best choice to make.

Newspaper is another bad choice for flooring for baby chicks. It is a solid surface with no holes like wire---so that's better! But it's too slick for baby chicks. Sometimes they can't get purchase on that surface, so it can cause leg problems such as splay leg in baby chicks as they are learning to walk.

What brooder flooring to use

You can use paper towels for the first few days, until the baby chicks learn what is food and what is not---and then switch to pine shavings or another good bedding material. Or you can start with pine shavings from the beginning... however, keep watch to make sure chicks aren't ingesting too much bedding before they learn what to eat and what not to eat!

What chicken coop flooring to use

Just use good bedding like pine shavings in the coop on a solid floor.

Is all wire bad? No! In fact, some coops will be designed with wire mesh under the roost as a bonus feature. That can work well, because chickens aren't walking around on the wire; they're sitting on a roost above the wire. That's where most of the poo will occur, because chickens spend so much time gathered in that one spot every night.

So having wire mesh under the roost might allow droppings to fall down through and make cleaning easier if you have access to that area to change frequently. That's a great feature for a coop, and we won't really count that as flooring. But for walking on during the day, chickens prefer to have flooring with places to scratch and dig and forage.

Why is chicken coop flooring so important?

Chicken coop flooring is important because you want to try to provide flooring for your birds that will help support the way they function and learn.

So think about it. Chickens can fly fairly well for short distances, but in essence they're ground birds. They don't spend their days fluttering from treetop to treetop nabbing bugs in mid air! No, chickens forage on the ground and spend most of their time walking---even their nests are usually on the ground or just slightly elevated.

That's because baby chicks can walk shortly after they hatch---they have to, because mother hen doesn't feed them by regurgitating food into their gaping mouths. Instead, mother hen teaches them how to forage and what to eat. They are "precocial" birds, not "altricial" birds like, say, robins. So the babies need to be able to get in and out of the nest. It can't be too far for them to jump back into once they get out to eat and drink with their mama hen.

So what chickens need for flooring is something that mimics the type of material they'd choose to walk on themselves.