What Type of Bedding Is Best for Sheep?

There are many options to keep your wooly friends comfortable and happy. 

Different farmers swear by different methods. 

How do you pick what bedding is best for your sheep?

The best bedding type for your sheep is absorbent, cost-effective, and comfortable for your sheep. Most sheep owners agree that straw, the traditional choice of bedding, is the best option. However, you might find a different option that works best for your farm.

We’ll cover different bedding options and factors to consider, so keep reading to find out!

best bedding for sheep

What Do You Need in Your Livestock Bedding?

When deciding what type of bedding to use for your wooly friends, there are a few factors to consider:


Is this a bedding material you have easy access to? 

Can you buy it consistently to ensure your pens are fully bedded and clean for your animals’ health?


Does this material absorb well? 

Your sheep’s waste will be in their bedding, and they will potentially spill water in it. 

Can the bedding material handle it? 

Damp bedding can lead to disease and the growth of bacteria.


How dusty is your bedding? 

If it’s too dusty, it can cause respiratory health issues for both you and your animals. 


Can you afford to buy this regularly? 

Do this bedding’s benefits outweigh another option’s benefits at an economical cost? 

Also, consider haulage costs if you are not growing it yourself. 

Your sheep need clean bedding. 

Since they will spend so much time in it, the condition of the bedding affects their health. 

If the bedding becomes moldy or dirty, it can lead to disease. 

Keeping your flock healthy should be your number one priority, followed by keeping your flock comfortable.

What Are Good Sheep Bedding Options?

There are so many different types of bedding out there. 

Material can make good bedding if it meets the requirements we just covered. 

But with so many options, how do you choose?

The chart below covers some common options and compares their absorption factor. 

This is the weight of water held per unit of dry material. 

The higher the value, the more absorbent the bedding material is. 

Keep in mind the moisture content of the bedding will affect your flock’s comfort. 

Bedding MaterialAbsorption Factor
Wheat Straw2.1
Oat Straw2.4 to 2.5
Barley Straw2
Sawdust1.5 to 2.5
Shavings1.5 to 2
Corn Stover2.5
Peat Moss10


The most common or traditional bedding is straw. 

Straw is a small grain’s stalk. 

It is dried and then bundled up into a bale. 

There are several different versions of straw grown around the world. 

Because of this, straw is easily accessible. 

In addition to sheep bedding, it has traditionally been used for many other livestock breeds. 

Straw comes in small square or large round bales if you have a large enough flock. 

Square bales are small enough to be moved by hand, while round bales require moving machinery. 

Straw bedding is made from numerous types of small grains. 

Common types include: 

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oat
  • Rye

You may have a preference for straw from a specific type of grain, and your flock animals might as well!


Hay is similar to straw, but it is made from different plants. 

Hay is made from dried grasses or alfalfa. 

It is high in nutritional value and is usually used for feed. 

However, it is also an option for bedding. Your sheep will likely munch on it, though. 

Hay has a similar absorbance as straw, and it’s easy to grow grass to turn into your hay. 

Typically, though, you want to use your hay for feed. 

If you want to use hay for bedding, use any old or questionable hay not meeting feed quality standards. 

Further Reading: Is Moldy Hay Bad For Sheep?


Sawdust is widely available, but it isn’t the best option for wooly sheep. 

Since sawdust is so fine, it can get stuck in their fleece and contaminate it. 

However, you do not have this problem with hair sheep. 

You need to carefully manage sawdust beds, as wet sawdust can lead to increased foot health problems in sheep. 

Further Reading: How Wetness Affects Sheep

Can You Use Wood Shavings For Sheep?

Wood shavings make good bedding because they are clean, dust free, and moderately absorbent. 

They require a little less upkeep than straw, according to farmers who use them. 

Another factor to consider with wood shavings is the dirty wool. 

If you plan to sell the fleece, you may want to avoid wood shavings, which can still get stuck in the fleece. 

Used wood shavings make good fertilizer, making it easy to dispose of the bedding once used. 

However, the wood shavings can lock up nitrogen, so monitor your fields closely. 

Corn Stover

Corn stover, or corn stalks, is what is left after harvest. 

Similar to straw and hay, it is dried and baled. 

The texture isn’t as soft as straw, but most livestock find it comfy. 

Unfortunately, it is harder to bale corn stalks than the other options. If you want to make your bedding, keep this in mind. 

The hardiness of the stalks is harder on harvesting equipment, especially older ones. 

Also, removing the leftover stalks from the field means taking away nutrients from the soil. 

If you leave the stalks to decompose, they will return some of the nutrients to the soil, which is good for next year’s harvest. 


Sand has been successfully used on dairy farms to reduce mastitis while providing comfortable bedding. 

For sheep, though, sand presents the same problem as sawdust. 

The fine particles can get stuck in the fleece, lowering its quality and potentially causing discomfort.

Sand also has a much lower absorbency, so it is not ideal unless you are willing to clean it all the time.

Peat Moss

This type of bedding is becoming more popular in barns. 

This is mostly due to the high absorbency rate, which keeps it smelling better. 

Peat moss is also very soft, making it a comfortable option. 

There are two main problems with using peat moss. 

First, you need to bed at least 6″ inches of it, so it requires a lot of peat moss up front. 

It is harder to come by than options like straw or hay, so you might struggle to get enough for your pens. 

Second, peat moss is dark and can stick to fleece. 

If you plan on selling your wool, bedding with peat moss can devalue it. 

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through Farmpertise.com, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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