two chickens by leaf pile during fall

Fall Leaves: nature’s free mulch, compost & animal bedding

Driving through neighborhoods during fall time, it’s common to see big black trash bags stuffed with raked leaves sitting on the curb, waiting for garbage day.

When your yard (or a nearby neighbor’s yard) is filled with leafy,¬†deciduous trees, although it’s a chore to rake up falling leaves, you’re actually bagging up brown gold that you – or someone else – could re-purpose.

birch trees and small backyard decorative bridge

Dried leaves are a great natural resource. I especially like using old birch leaves for the chicken coop and nest box bedding, because I know exactly where they came from and that they were organically grown.

We don’t spray chemicals in our yard, so I don’t need to consider how the leaf bedding was processed or if it was treated with anything – because it wasn’t.

chickens by bagged leaves

Another smart way to reuse dried leaves is for garden bed mulching. Gardeners mulch year round for different plants, for different purposes.

If you have outdoor perennials (plants that come back every year), mulching before winter is a good way to help their roots stay insulated during cold temperatures.

And in the spring and summer, mulching certain plants and trees can be an effective way to keep moisture in the ground for longer periods of time, so you don’t have to water as often.

group of backyard hens with white birch and fall leaves

Having extra bags of leaves on-hand is a great source of free chicken coop bedding.

Some chicken owners use straw, wood chips, or wood shavings, but if you have access to free dried leaves, take advantage of it!

single chicken in coop with leaves as bedding

During the cold, snowy winter months, having extra dried leaves tucked away is also a fun (again – free!) way to give your birds some exercise and entertainment when there’s snow on the ground.

Just open up a bag of leaves and spread them around the chicken run area.

On snowy winter days, if your chickens decide to stay in the warmth and shelter of their coop all day, they can start to pick on each other from living in such tight quarters.

Tossing a bag of dried leaves into the outdoor run gives them a reason to come outside, move around and release some energy. Your birds will love scratching around through their “new” environment.

Plus it provides an excuse for them to leave the coop, so your poor hens at the bottom of the pecking order can have a temporary escape and a bit of breathing room. (Chickens can be mean to each other!)

two chickens by leaf pile during fall

Or if you compost, leaves break down really well. There’s a lot of surface area on leaves and they’re easy to mix in with other yard, kitchen and animal waste.

Between composting, mulch, and chicken bedding, there are plenty of ways to prevent dried leaves from just adding volume to the city landfill.

And if you’re not interested in using leaves yourself, maybe someone else would appreciate them.