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Hemp bedding for chickens - for cleaner eggs and a better compost pile

Hemp bedding for chickens - a better choice for chickens

CityChick hemp bedding
(Warning - this article contains references and photos of chicken poop!)

For years I had been using pine shavings with my chickens. I didn't even consider if there was an alternative. 

One day I was out collecting eggs (click here for a behind the scenes look at CityChick) for breakfast and I was upset with how much chicken poop was on my eggs. I'm religious about cleaning out our coops every week. Here it was, the day after a coop clean out and my eggs were STILL stained with chicken poo. 

To be honest, handling eggs covered chicken poop really doesn't bother me too much. But since I store my eggs on the counter, I really hate looking at dirty eggs during the day. 
I decided to take a long hard look at what was happening in the chicken coop that was causing so many dirty eggs. 

The biggest offender was with the coop design. The chickens would sleep on one of two roost bars. They also poop where they sleep. The poop would fall and stay on top of the pine shavings. 

After the hens would go out for the morning and have some food and water, they would come back inside the coop to lay their egg. They would walk over the poop sitting on top of the pine shavings (I mean c'mon chickens - can you at least walk AROUND the poop?) and then lay an egg. The problem was with if there was already an egg inside the nesting box, the incoming hen with the dirty feet would step on the egg - resulting in stepped on, dirty egg.
Since I couldn't change the layout of my coop, I decided to see if there was a better bedding for the chickens. That's when I discovered hemp bedding.

(Click here for our YouTube video showing a hemp bedding vs pine shavings side by side comparison!)

Hemp bedding is made from the “hurd” or the stalk of the cannabis plant. The hurd is mulched down into a straw like structure.
Hemp bedding for chickens
I had so many questions.....

"Isn't cannabis illegal?" 

"Will my chickens get high from being on this product?"

Thankfully, I researched hemp bedding and came across some great information. 

First and foremost, hemp is NOT marijuana. Hemp contains minimal traces (like .0001%) of THC, the psychoactive component found in marijuana. No THC in the bedding means that if the bedding is ingested, your chickens (or any other animal that you use the bedding for) will NOT get high. Thanks to hemp not having any THC, it is legal to sell hemp bedding in the United States. 

As a matter of fact hemp has been used to make several other products. Our founding fathers used hemp to make rope. Hemp has also been used to make biodegradable plastics, beer, sunscreen, clothes, and more.
The first thing that I noticed when I opened my first bag of hemp bedding is how soft the bedding is. When I placed the hemp bedding in the chicken coop, I also noticed there wasn't a lot of dust. Another HUGE benefit for me and for the chickens. Chickens are prone to respiratory issues so I was extremely happy knowing my chickens wouldn't be breathing in dust particles. 
Then came the moment of truth. 
I went out to collect eggs the next day and I opened up the nesting box and there was my beautifully CLEAN fresh egg. 

Now, when the chickens poop, the poop falls inside the hemp bedding and the fibers help 'wick' the moisture out of the poop. Unlike the pine shavings, the poop would just sit on top of the shavings waiting for a chicken to step on top of it. 

I have noticed that sometimes the fiber from the hemp bedding sticks to the eggs. When a hen lays her egg, she produces a liquid film around the egg called the bloom. Since the bloom is still wet immediately after the egg is laid, the hemp bedding sticks to it. 

We clean out the coops at CityChick HQ on a weekly basis (Click here to see our YouTube video and tips on how to clean out a chicken coop). We have five large chicken coops and a LOT of chickens. Since we clean out the coops so often we have a large compost pile. Another benefit to hemp bedding is that it breaks down in the compost at least twice as fast as pine shavings. Another HUGE win!

I have noticed that when I clean out a coop with hemp bedding, I find less insects that have set up shop inside my coop. 
We still use a mix of pine shavings and hemp bedding at CityChick HQ. Even though I was told that hemp bedding is safe for baby chicks - I prefer to use pine shavings. Hemp bedding contains lots of some pieces of fiber that I worry that the baby chicks will eat.

Want to see how we raise baby chicks? Check out our YouTube video for our top tips on raising those cute fluffballs!
So to recap the benefits of hemp bedding for chickens:
  • Hemp bedding is more absorbent than pine shavings resulting in cleaner eggs!
  • Hemp bedding is less dusty than pine shavings. Chickens with sensitive respiratory systems will benefit.
  • Hemp bedding breaks down twice as fast than pine shavings in the compost bin.
  • Hemp bedding is more sustainable than pine shavings. Hemp renews itself annually unlike pine trees that can take up to seven years.

    Live in Atlanta? CityChick delivers hemp bedding right to your door!