Do you know how a chicken stays clean? Chickens clean themselves by taking a dust bath. And while it may seem a bit odd, a dust bath helps prevent mites, lice, and other insects from making a home among your chicken’s feathers. It can also help to dry up excess oil, exfoliate their skin, and help them shed old feathers.
How Do Chickens Take a Dust Bath?
If you’ve never seen a chicken take a dust bath before, it might look a little scary the first time you see it. The chicken will use their wings and feet to sling dirt all among their feathers. But many times, they will sit quietly for a bit with the dirt all over them.
And usually, they are all splayed out and can look almost dead. This is especially common during the summer when they have wallowed out a cool spot in the dirt.
Once a chicken is finished with the dust bath, she will stand up and shake the dust out of her feathers. Finally, they will usually preen themselves to remove any remaining dirt among their feathers.
Dust bathing is usually a social activity and you will often find several hens bathing at the same time.
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Why Should You Create a Dust Bath?
It is a good idea to provide your chickens an area for a dust bath. If you don’t provide your flock with an area to dust bathe, they will most likely make one for themselves.
They may choose an area of the coop or run but if you let the chickens free-range, it will probably be your favorite flower bed or garden bed. And they WILL tear it up and sling mulch and dirt everywhere.
To prevent them from making a dust bath wherever they want, you can provide one for them. A dust bath basically consists of an area of fine soil or sand that your chickens can wallow in and get the dirt among their feathers.
How to Make a Dust Bath for Your Chickens
But how do you create a dust bath for your chickens? It’s actually quite easy to create an area for your chickens to dust bathe.
Decide Where to Locate the Dust Bath
The first thing to do is to decide where you want their dust bath to be located. It is better to create it in an area that stays dry, like the corner of the coop or a covered run if at all possible.
If you don’t have a dry area, you can create a covered area by using a tarp or an umbrella to keep the dusting area dry.
What to Use to Contain the Dirt
Next, you need to decide what you will use to contain the dust bath. If you have a large coop or run, a children’s pool works great.
For a smaller area, a large tote can be used. Just be sure that whatever you choose is fairly shallow. Your chickens need to be able to step into it easily.
If it’s not possible to locate the dust bathing area in a dry spot, drill some drainage holes in the bottom of whatever container you choose. Otherwise, you’ll have a muddy mess after a rain.
Filling Your Dust Bath
Next, you need to decide what to fill your dust bath with. Soil from your yard works great if it isn’t clay soil. You can buy garden soil from your local home improvement store if you don’t have anything suitable in your yard.
Sand also works well. If you don’t have a way to keep the dusting area dry, definitely choose sand.
Just dump the sand or soil in the container. You’ve just built a dust bath. See how easy that was?
You can also add a small amount of wood ash to your chickens’ dusting area. The addition of wood ash can help to smother insects and parasites.
A few dried herbs can also be added to the dust bath area to aid in the prevention of lice and mites. The same herbs you use in the coop are great to add to the dust bath.
Be prepared to clean up around the dust bathing area every so often. Your chickens will scatter the material everywhere while they are in the process of bathing. Usually, you can just scoop the sand or dirt right back into the container.
Don’t forget to stand back and watch your chickens while they dust bathe. It’s quite interesting to watch them as they dig around cleaning themselves.