You’ve finally done it, you’re getting some pigs! Before those little porkers show up, you’ll want to have their pen ready and waiting. What’s the best bedding material to use in their pen to keep your pigs comfortable and happy?
The best bedding material for pigs is straw since it is easy to find and easy to use. If the cost of straw is prohibitive in your area, consider other bedding options for your pigs such as shavings, old hay and wood chips.
Consider reading Cost Of Raising Feeder Pigs. This is an article I wrote that shows you how to figure up your feed costs for raising your pigs up to finishing weight.
The best bedding for pigs is straw
The best bedding to use for your pigs is straw. Straw is easy to find, easy to handle, easy to add to freshen up the pen and makes a great compost component when you clean out the pen.
You can use straw from any of the small grains, with wheat, barley, rye and oats being the most common straw types available. Any of these will work great for your pigs.
The straw in your area is based on which grain is most commonly raised in your area. Around here, wheat straw is the most common. Occasionally other types are available, but it’s usually made from wheat.
Pigs like to play with the straw bedding
Keeping your pigs busy by giving them something to do during the day is a great way to have happy, healthy pigs.
Straw bedding gives the pigs something to play with and keeps them interacting with their environment. It’s important to remember that pigs would stay busy all day, if they were left to find food for themselves.
We make finding food super easy for them, but we can forget that they still need an outlet for that extra energy, especially if your situation requires raising your pigs inside.
Having a pile of straw in their pen that they can toss around and play with gives them a place to focus their energy and keeps them happy.
I like to put the whole bale of straw in the pen and let them spread it out themselves. You’d be surprised at how much “work” those pigs can get done in a short amount of time!
If you want the bedding mostly in a specific area, toss the straw there to start. Of course, the pigs will still play with it, yet the spot you wanted done will have a good amount of bedding.
Pine shavings can be used for pig bedding
Some folks are fans of pine shavings, especially if pine shavings are the easiest bedding to find in your area.
Pine shavings are super easy to find and conveniently packaged, so I can see the draw to using them for bedding.
On the plus side, shavings are very easy to spread out and do not mat together, so they are easy to pitch out, as well.
If we did not have easy access to straw, shavings would be my bedding material of choice.
We don’t use shavings much, they are harder to get around here than straw, but we know plenty of people who prefer shavings.
Old hay makes great pig bedding
An often overlooked source of great bedding is old hay, we use it any time that straw is selling for more than we are willing to pay for it!
The only potential downside to using old hay instead of straw, is that hay does not brighten up the pen as much as straw. It’s not a difference in function, it’s just a difference in looks to you, the pigs don’t care!
Old hay is very absorbent and pigs will enjoy spying around in the hay to see what’s left that is snackable. Don’t worry about them eating some old hay, as long as they have plenty of feed to eat, also.
The great news about using old hay as bedding is that once you are ready to clean out the pen, you have a great start to a compost pile here with the manured hay.
I have to admit, I prefer to use straw, but if late made or old hay is a better bang for my buck, hay it is! The pigs are fine with either.
3 Reasons To Use Hay For Bedding give you our take on using old hay as bedding, especially when you run short on straw!
Using wood chips as pig bedding is an option
Wood chips make a good bedding material for pigs when used in a deep bedding type system.
By deep bedding I mean that you need to make sure the pigs have a foot (or more) of bedding material in the pen to start with then add, as needed.
Just a smattering of wood chips on the floor of the pen will not cut it, wood chips used for bedding only work well when they are deep.
Just like straw, wood chips give your pigs something to play with. Your pigs want to stay busy and bedding material that is able to be carried around will do the trick to keep your pigs happy and content.
You can get unwanted wood chips from tree trimmers
If you have wood chips available in your area, you’ve got a great potential source of pig bedding material, especially if you can get them cheap.
Free is better than cheap and we’re always on the look out for free bedding materials! This past summer, we found some, actually they found us.
A tree trimming company was cutting limbs off of the power lines and we asked them to dump the trimmings here. I want to keep my organic matter!
Turns out they were happy to give us all of the trimmings we would take.
They were having a hard time finding places to dump the load of trimmings and having to drive over an hour back to their headquarters to dump the chips when the truck is full!
It seems crazy to us that no one wants the chips, especially when folks around here pay quite a bit each year for mulch, but it worked out to benefit both of us, we get the chips and they don’t have to drive so far to unload the truck.
Now, we have a big pile of wood chips in the yard, ready to go. Anytime we need a bit of bedding material or to build up a wet spot where we walk a lot, the fix is easy.
When you see the tree trimmers in your area, ask if they will give you the chips.
I do need to mention, since wood chips are so coarse, meaning they are in bigger pieces, they will not be quite as absorbent as something in smaller pieces and they will absorb less if they are wet.
Ideally, we would have the chips under roof or at least under a tarp, to get the most absorbency and use out of them as a bedding material.
Since these are free, we can just use plenty and be happy!
Leaves from fall leaf collection make good pig bedding
If you have access to leaves from fall leaf collection, you are set, at least as far as your pig bedding needs go. Leaves are easy to spread and the pigs like to play in the piles!
On the plus side, leaves are renewable and cost nothing to produce, since the trees are growing and shedding leaves yearly with or without you.
Additionally, leaves left to gather up in town will plug up water drains, causing flooding, so they have to go somewhere. In with your pigs is as good as anywhere else!
Leaves are very fluffy for the amount of bedding material you get
You should know that leaves pile up really high, but smoosh down to near nothing, so plan on adding leaves to the pen frequently. This isn’t a big deal, it’s easy and fun, especially if the leaves are free!
If you are paying for leaves, they may not be the best use of your time and money. Other bedding options are going to give you more absorbency for the amount of material you put in the pen.
You’ll have to price this out for your area.
A few years ago, we were able to get leaves from the city leaf collection vacuum trucks. They were looking for a place to dump the leaves and we were super happy to get them!
We only got leaves for one year, then a nursery started paying to have the leaves dropped off at their place, so we were out. For as long as we had them, leaves work great as a bedding material.
Plus, any leaves you don’t use compost down and make a great garden addition!
Other alternative livestock bedding materials are being used
If you have another bedding material commonly used in your area, give it a shot. Pigs are pretty easy to please, they just want something to play in that keeps their pen dry.
The only catch is that pigs will “taste test” the bedding, so if it’s not safe for them to eat a little, don’t use it.
Try a locally available bedding source to see how it works, if you don’t like the results, add straw on top and that will fix it right up!
If you are looking for other bedding material ideas, here’s a link to an Iowa State University study on Absorbency of Alternative Livestock Bedding Sources.
This study will give you an idea of other materials that might work in your area in addition to the more commonly used straws and sawdust/shavings options that we went over in this article.