I had just dirt in the old coop. New one I'm gonna do pine shavings. Backyardchickens.com is a good resource for research in breeds. We prefer the Orpington breeds for their broody tendencies and hardy in winter and excellent layers. They are also mild tempered and let you pet and pick them up better than my Rhode Island reds, white leghorns, or black australorps. We have a couple dark brahmas too that are awesome.