If you are making your own chicken coop, you may wonder what floor to use. The best and worst floors for chicken coops very much depend on where you live and the conditions to be found there.
The best chicken coop floors are either no floor at all or wood boards protected with a rubber lining. Other options, like wood boards with linoleum, have pros and cons. But coops lined with vinyl should be a no-go, and you should never use wire for floors.
The reason that I recommend the no floor at all option and the wood boards with rubber lining options for most chicken owners is that I believe these are best for hens, the environment, and you. When looking at all factors, these options often (though not always) come out on top.
What To Consider When Choosing Chicken Coop Floors
When choosing which floor is best for your new chicken coop, there are a number of different factors to consider.
- Think about where you live and the climate and conditions. Some options might be best for warmer and drier environments, while others are better for cooler and more humid conditions.
- Pests and predators present in your area. Some more solid and durable floors are better where certain predators are a particular problem.
- Consider how safe and comfortable the floor you are considering will be for your hens.
- Think about how easy it will be for you to clean out your coop and keep it pest and disease-free.
- I believe we should also always think of the true costs of the materials we choose. We should think not just about the financial cost of materials, but also what they cost in terms of people and the environment.
Chicken welfare should be top of the list when making your decision. Remember, these are living creatures, and their lives are in your hands. Of course, practical considerations are also important, and you do also need to think about your own needs (as the person who will be cleaning out the coop).
As a sustainable chicken keeper, you should also try to limit your negative impact on people and the planet as much as you possibly can, and this too is very important in making material choices for the coop floor and for all the other things you will need for your flock.
No Floor At All
The first thing to think about is whether your chicken coop needs a floor at all. In some areas, it may not be necessary to have solid flooring in your coop. You may simply be able to erect a chicken coop directly onto the earth.
A compacted earth floor can be practical in some areas because it will be more difficult for chickens to rake up with their scratching. You might also consider placing a layer of sand in the base of a coop and covering that with mulch/bedding. But regular soil might easily be scratched up, and chickens may even make large holes in it that make access difficult.
An earth floor is not usually left as is but is covered with a deep mulch of straw or other similar carbon-rich material. As the mulch and manure mix, they basically compost in place. And more mulch is regularly added on top. Then, every year or so, the deep litter is removed and spread on a field or used to add fertility in a garden. This system can potentially be used inside a coop as well as in a run or yarding system.
But this is not necessarily the best choice for all areas. Earth floors can sometimes harbor pests, and where sufficient mulch is not used, can get muddy and messy. They can be cold and damp in the winter months in some climates, which may not provide optimal conditions for your hens. And unfortunately, in some areas, earth floors can allow access for predators that can burrow under the sides of the coop or for rodents that might steal eggs. So this is something to consider.
Solid wood boards are a popular choice for the floors for chicken coops. Many chicken owners find that they are durable enough to stand up against predators and long-lasting enough when raised up off the ground. Of course, wood boards will break down and rot over time, especially when they are in damp conditions or in contact with the soil. But when used correctly, they can be a good choice.
Wood boards can be treated with natural oils to preserve them. But it is important only to use preservatives that will not pose a health threat to your flock. Make sure that you do not use any harmful chemicals that could hurt your hens.
Wood boards are relatively warm and comfortable for hens to walk on. But they should not be too rough or splintery as this could injure your birds.
One key consideration when it comes to using wood boards for a chicken coop floor is that they usually have gaps or ridges between them, which can catch the manure and trap dirt. They can also potentially allow pests in and harbor them.
Of course, if your birds are dropping manure right onto the boards, this will cause them to rot out. And this can happen quite quickly with certain timbers.
For the reasons mentioned above, it is usually a good idea to choose something to cover the boards with. A covering of some kind will help keep the boards intact for longer and will make it much easier for you to clean out your coop.
Wood Boards with Vinyl – Avoid At All Costs
One option that people sometimes use to cover a wooden coop floor is vinyl flooring. But this is a definite no-no. The vinyl flooring is a synthetic plastic product. This is terrible for the environment, contributing to global warming and causing a waste problem at the end of its useful life.
Also, crucially, it can be detrimental to the health of your flock. New vinyl flooring may off-gas and cause issues for chickens’ sensitive respiratory systems.
What is more, chickens can often peck off and eat small bits of this type of flooring. Vinyl flooring may contain lead and other heavy metals, which are highly toxic. To make matters even worse, vinyl’s flexibility and durability come from plasticizers – phthalates, which are also toxic to chickens.
Not only can this be a health threat to your flock. If you eat their eggs, it can also pose a threat to you. It can cause a range of gastrointestinal and neurological problems in chickens and in any person who eats their eggs on a regular basis!
So never use this to line a coop floor – in spite of the recommendations you may sometimes see online.
Wood Boards With Linoleum – Not Ideal
Though vinyl floors are often described as lino, and vice versa, these are different products. Linoleum is a floor covering invented in the 19th Century. It is made from materials such as solidified linseed oil, pine resin, wood dust, ground cork dust, and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate. As such, true linoleum is natural rather than synthetic in origin.
True linoleum is recyclable, biodegradable, and hard-wearing. As such, it is a far better option than vinyl and can be a sustainable material to choose from for a chicken coop floor.
The surface of lino does not harbor bacteria or dust mites, so it is safer for hens. It is easy to clean. But it is very important to make sure that it really is linoleum and not a vinyl flooring that you have purchased.
Another thing to think about is that lino can be very slippery, especially when wet. This means that it might not be ideal for a chicken coop as it could cause injuries to your flock or to you when you enter the area.
If you do decide to use linoleum flooring in your coop, make sure that it is covered with a layer of mulch or bedding material to avoid any issues. And do not glue down the floor cover as the glue you use may be toxic to the flock, and that is not a risk that you should take.
Wood Boards With Rubber Lining
My own chicken coop is a wooden structure with a wooden floor. It is placed on top of some slabs on a base of gravel and sand to keep it up off the dirt. We have also chosen to invest in a rubber liner for the base of the coop. Rubber lining is more expensive than many of the other options, but I do find it the best option, certainly where I live.
The rubber flooring is very durable, not too slippery, and pretty easy to clean. We scrape up the manure and bedding and add it to the compost heap every week or so, then take out the rubber base and give it a more thorough clean once or twice a year. The rubber also adds a little padding to the floor and keeps it slightly warmer and comfortable for hens to walk on.
The rubber is a natural material, and it is relatively eco-friendly and long-lasting. Unlike cheap lino, it will not rip, and chickens will not damage it over time.
Plywood – Not Ideal
Some chicken owners swear by plywood and use solid plywood sheets in place of solid wood boards for the base of the coop – either will or without one of the liner options mentioned above.
One benefit that plywood has over wood boards is that it does not have cracks between the boards where dirt and pests can linger. It can also be sufficient in many areas to keep out predators, rodents, etc.
But of course, like wood boards, plywood can rot and break down over time. And there is one other major disadvantage to using plywood.
Plywood is a panel made by gluing thin sheets of wood veneer together. Until a few years ago, a chemical resin called urea-formaldehyde (or phenol-formaldehyde for outdoors grade plywood) was typically used as the glue in these panels. Formaldehyde is toxic, and off-gassing can cause a problem for both animals and humans. The EPA lists formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says that formaldehyde is “carcinogenic to humans.”
If you do plan on using plywood in your chicken coop (or in your home), it is a good idea to try to find formaldehyde-free plywood to use. These use soy-based adhesives. These are easier to source in some places than in others. And these may still bring a range of environmental concerns since soy production can be implicated in deforestation and landscape degradation.
For environmental as well as health reasons, I would advise using sustainably sourced timber rather than plywood for your chicken coop project if at all possible.
Concrete – Not Ideal
Many chicken coop builders opt for a more long-lasting and durable base for their permanently positioned coop: concrete.
Many chicken keepers swear by this material as the ideal chicken coop base. And it certainly can have certain advantages. For one thing, it is far more predator proof and long lastingly secure than the other options mentioned above. So for areas where large predators are a problem, it could be a good idea.
But in some ways, concrete is not an ideal choice for chicken coop flooring. For one thing, it is rough. It can harm your flock’s feet and cause injuries or infections. For another thing, it can be rather chilly in winter – especially if sufficient bedding is not used.
Another very important thing to think about is the environmental costs of using this material. Concrete is not an eco-friendly material at all, and its use contributes to our climate crisis. Concrete is one of four industries, along with steel, ammonia, and ethylene, that are the most carbon-intensive industries in the world.
Also, using concrete is a very permanent step. When we are thinking about the structures we erect, we should all think about how we can tread more lightly and have less impact on our immediate as well as the global environment.
If you live in an area where large predators are a problem and do need a very strong, secure, and more permanent base for your chicken coop, then limecrete could be one eco-friendly alternative to concrete to consider.
Limecrete is not perfect but does come at a far lower carbon cost than concrete does. However, it is more expensive and takes longer to go off, especially in cooler environments. And so may not really be a viable option for many chicken owners.
However, if you can afford it and want to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible, then giving your chicken coop a limecrete floor could be a very good idea. It is a breathable and healthy material and one that can be useful in sustainable construction, whether you are building for people or for chickens.
Plastic Coops – Not Ideal
Some people decide not to make their own chicken coops but instead opt to buy one ready-made. There are, of course, plenty of wooden chicken coops on the market. But there are also a number of small plastic coops on sale.
I would not recommend choosing a plastic, molded coop with a plastic floor included. I would not recommend choosing plastic at all. Plastic is incredibly harmful for the environment and is another of the major contributors to our climate crisis. It might be convenient and easy to clean, but it also poses potential health risks and creates a waste problem at the end of its useful life.
Wire – Avoid At All Costs
Some chicken coops are built with wire floors. Some people think that it is a good idea to make a base with wire mesh for the droppings to fall through. But in practice, the manure gets caught in the wire and makes a mess, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to clean properly.
But this is another absolute no-no. The wire can seriously harm your chickens and cut or injure their feet. They can get their feet caught and even break toe bones. They can also lead to damp and drafty conditions that can make your flock sick.
Wire floors on suspended coops are definitely not a type of floor for chicken coops that you should choose.
The only potential use for wire is below the floor in a chicken coop – laid below the soil or a soft base to stop predators or rodents from burrowing under. But the wire should be well below where chickens will scratch.
Which type of base is right for you will depend on the factors outlined near the start of this article. But the best options, in my option, are rammed earth (in some climates and conditions), wood boards lined with rubber, or limecrete where burrowing/ persistent predators are a serious problem. And vinyl and wire are the worst options, and definitely, ones to avoid.