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We’ve tried quite a few different types of bedding material in our chicken coops and barn stalls.  We’ve tried the traditional pine shavings, both flake and fine; we’ve tried straw and even coarse sand.  Shredded Cardboard is by far our favorite bedding material for our coops and stalls!

Not only is it a great low dust option for the animals, it’s very cost-effective, and promotes sustainability by reducing waste and providing a valuable resource for your garden through composting.

Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use shredded cardboard bedding for your coop bedding, and how to turn used bedding into compost for your garden.


Find and Shred Cardboard

You can purchase shredded cardboard for your coop bedding or you can shred your own cardboard for free.   Repurpose your shipping boxes into coop bedding instead of adding to the recycle bin. You can also usually find cardboard for free from local businesses that receive a lot of cardboard packaging, such as grocery stores or furniture stores.     Shredding cardboard by hand can be quite a tedious task – especially if you need a LOT of bedding (like we do), but it’s definitely doable if you don’t need a large quantity.    We shred our own cardboard using a special shredder designed to handle heavy cardboard.

This shredder is the one we use.   This shredder is THE BEST for shredding cardboard.  We own two of these shredders and they’ll shred cardboard for hours without a hitch… and we shred a LOT of cardboard!   We love this shredder and highly recommend it if you want to shred your own cardboard for coop bedding.

Bonsaii 3S30 Shredder

Prepare the Coop or Stall

Clean the coop or stall thoroughly, removing all old bedding, droppings, and debris. Make sure to let the area dry completely before adding new bedding.  We also use barn lime and diatomaceous (DE) on our coop floors before adding the shredded cardboard bedding.

Important Note:  There are different types of lime! 
Make sure you are using “barn lime” or “agricultural lime”, NOT “hydrated lime” which is caustic and harmful to animals.


Add the Shredded Cardboard Bedding

Spread a layer of shredded cardboard bedding on the floor of the coop or stall, making sure to cover the entire area. The bedding should be at least 3 inches deep for chickens and 4-6 inches deep for goats.

Replace Bedding as Needed

As the bedding becomes soiled with droppings and urine, replace it with fresh bedding. This will help keep the coop or stall clean and prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.

Add Used Bedding to Compost

When it’s time to change the bedding, collect the used bedding and place it in a compost bin or pile. The nitrogen-rich manure from the chickens and goats and the carbon-rich shredded cardboard create a perfect balance of greens and browns for composting.   Bedding from goat stalls can go directly into the garden if you prefer.  Bedding from the chicken coop always needs to break down into compost before using in the garden.

Turn the Compost Pile

To ensure that the compost breaks down evenly and efficiently, turn the pile regularly, mixing the contents together. The compost should be ready in 6-12 months, depending on the size of the pile and the environmental conditions.

Use the Compost in Your Garden

Once the compost is ready, use it to fertilize your garden. The nutrients from the compost will help your plants grow stronger and healthier, and the improved soil quality will help retain moisture and reduce erosion.

Benefits for Sustainability

Using shredded cardboard bedding and composting the used bedding provides many benefits for sustainability:

  1. Reducing waste: Using shredded cardboard for bedding reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills.
  2. Creating a sustainable cycle: Composting the used bedding creates a sustainable cycle that supports the growth of plants and animals.
  3. Promoting healthy ecosystems: Using compost in your garden can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment and to human health.
  4. Cost-effective: Shredded cardboard is a low-cost option for bedding, which can help reduce the cost of keeping chickens and goats.


Estimated Cost Savings

Calculating the exact cost savings of using recycled cardboard for bedding and garden compost versus buying bedding, garden soil, and fertilizer will depend on various factors, such as the size of the coop or stall, the number of animals, and the size of the garden. However, we can make some general calculations based on the average cost of these items.

Assuming you have an 8 x 10 chicken coop or a few goats and a medium-sized garden, here are some estimated costs and savings over a year:

Bedding: Assuming you need to replace the bedding every month or two, the cost of purchasing bedding for a year would be:

  • Shredded cardboard: Free by repurposing shipping boxes or obtained from local businesses
  • Traditional bedding: Assuming 3 or 4 bags of bedding at approx $7 per bag, each time you replace the bedding may cost around $25 or approx $300 per year

Savings on Bedding: Up to $300 per year (more than enough to justify the cost of a shredder)!

Garden soil and fertilizer:  Assuming you need to fertilize and replenish the soil every year, the cost of purchasing garden soil and fertilizer would be:

  • Compost: Free if you compost your shredded cardboard bedding and animal waste
  • Garden soil: Around $5 per bag, which would cost around $50 for a medium-sized garden
  • Fertilizer: Around $10 per bag, which would cost around $20 for a medium-sized garden

Savings on Soil and Fertilizer: Up to $70 per year

Overall, by using recycled cardboard for bedding and composting it along with animal waste, you can save almost $400 per year on bedding and garden soil/fertilizer costs. Additionally, this method promotes sustainability by reducing waste and creating a sustainable system that supports the growth of plants and animals.

Total Cost Savings: ~ $400 per year

It’s important to note that these are estimated costs and savings, and they may vary depending on your specific situation. However, using recycled cardboard for bedding and composting can be a cost-effective and sustainable option for many small-scale farmers and backyard gardeners.

In addition to being our very favorite coop bedding material, using shredded cardboard bedding is an excellent way to save money, promote sustainability and reduce waste.   By following the tips above, you can create a sustainable cycle that supports the growth of plants and animals, while also saving money on bedding costs.