Last season I discovered the utility of pine needles (sometimes called pine straw). As you may have noticed, annually in late summer, pine trees shed their oldest needles. Sometimes this is in mass. Just in routine clean-up, I tossed them into the chicken run for bedding. It turned out to be a wet week, but the cool thing was that those needles did not get soggy. Usually I use leaves as bedding. As I described before, I save autumn leaves for my year-round hen bedding. Free and sustainable. The leaves do need attention whenever it rains, which is my cue to rake out the run and compost the works.
The discovery of the needles were a significant help though this spring during the ice thaw. My least favorite time for run maintenance for me is when the snow is melting but the ground is still frozen. Puddling, build-up of frozen bedding plus hen activity is messy. This year, I implemented the pine needles during thaw. What a difference! The thick layer of needles kept the hens up an off any icy mucky puddles underneath. Since pine needles take longer to compost, I elected to bring the pine straw to the yard waste site when the wet period was over.
I now keep an eye out for local pine trees. When the next drop happens, I will be knocking on doors and asking if they would mind if I rake up their needles for them.