A nice soft bedding is needed for your ladies for a wonderful sleep and happy dreams (chickens really do dream!). My first instinct was to get cedar shavings but found out it can be toxic to chickens! It can give off 'fumes' that may kill some parasites but can affect chickens respiratory system enough to stress them and make them more susceptible to other diseases. Cedar also contains oils and scents that is toxic to your chickens.
So the best safe option is untreated pine shavings! Go for large flake wood shavings, over fine shavings they are too dusty that can be difficult to breathe in and don't use sawdust which is way too dusty and damp. You can find large flake pine shavings at Tractor Supply Co., any local feed store or on Amazon. The high carbon content of wood shavings balances out the high nitrogen in chicken manure.
To repel pests, you can also mix a bit of diatomaceous earth in with the pine shavings, but be cautious as it can irritate your lungs and your flock's lungs which can lead to respiratory issues. Just sprinkle sparingly between the newspaper and pine shavings mixing it in. You can also sprinkle mint and lavender leaves among the bedding to repel insects.
The best way to test your coop bedding is performing the sniff test. If you can smell any ammonia, you need more carbon in the litter. Ammonia will lead to respiratory issues in chickens. If you have a wooden coop floor, you may need to add a TINY bit of moisture to wood shavings like a dash of water. A dirt floor is ideal for the best foundation to start a healthy bedding.
I use a kitty litter scoop to remove the chicken poop when cleaning it out and place it into a bucket that I then dump into our compost. It creates a rich layer into our compost that we then use on our garden beds. The beauty of reusing in a full circle!
Drawbacks for pine shavings is it can get expensive and can potentially cause splinters on their feet if too rough.
Straw is another option and is actually the best option. Better than paper shavings, sand, dry leaves or hay/grass clippings. Straw is less expensive and is good compostable bedding. It provides warmth, healthy germ balance, adds cushioning, and interests the chickens into pecking it.
In their run I do like to add dried leaves, the best leaves are oak leaves which don't stick together but be sure they are dry to avoid a stinky sticky mess. This is at no cost for me as we have two huge oak tress that produce a ton of leaves during the fall and winter months. If you just rely on dirt floor your ladies will dig through until theres no more dirt to dig up.
May your chickens sleep wonderfully on a bed of fluffy shavings.
With love for all living things,
Crazy Sexy Cool Chicken Momma