What is Dust Bathing?
Unlike us humans, chickens bathe with dirt. Sure as a kid, I’d jump in dirt, building mud castles but those days are over. For chickens it’s a ritual, a cleansing ritual that’s almost meditative for them. When chickens start to feel dirty they begin digging around themselves picking up loose dirt to sink into and flip onto their feathers. They will continue to do this until they coat themselves to absorb moisture and clog breathing pores of parasites that can live among your chickens.
What Does the Dirt do?
The fine sand and/or dirt keeps their feathers clean and is like natural insecticide to keep off mites, lice and other parasites. It’s a social gathering just like almost any other activity they do through out the day so bathing is no different. Just like us kids who had siblings and/or cousins that’d join us in the bathtub. It’s an important ritual that they need and will try to do daily.
Where can they Dust bathe?
If there is no designated spot that you’ve made for them, they will find some way to dig up any loose dirt around your yard. Mine have done so next to our big oak tree where not much grass grows. Instead of the risk of roots being dug up and making holes around your yard, I would create a dust bath area for them.
What Container can I use for a Dust Bath?
There are many options such as using a food-safe plastic container, old tires, old kiddie pool, cement/brick area or like me a wood post container (picture above). You want to make sure it’s low enough for them to get into. Make it large enough to fit at least all of your girls as they love to do it together!
What Type of Dirt?
I live in Texas, so I use Texas top soil or can use loamy dirt. I try to make sure it’s organic, free of chemicals. Also mixing in a bit of sand helps give some texture to almost exfoliate your chickens. If your top soil is very rich and moist it’s best to mix in sand with it. You want the dirt to be loose so they can easily roll into it and flip it up unto their feathers.
- Wood Ash
- Diatomaceous Earth
Make sure to only use wood fireplace ash without any chemicals added such as liquid lighter fluid. Charcoal wood ash contains vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, and absorbs toxins, so will provide medicinal benefits for your girls. It’s also an extra addition to help kill off the parasites like Diatomaceous Earth but not as powerful.
For Diatomaceous Earth (DE) make sure to use the food grade material. Its abilities are powerful in fighting off parasites and mites. This product needs to be handled safely, by using a mask and goggles to keep from breathing it in as it can irritate your lungs. I also like to use gloves as an extra measure. The amount you use depends on how much dirt/sand you have, I usually do about a 2 to 1 ratio.
Herbs are a great natural additive to the dust bath as an extra cleansing and relaxing aroma for you ladies. I like to use dried lavender as a relaxing soothing scent and sage, rosemary and mint to fight off bugs as a natural insecticide. These herbs also can be pecked at, giving extra nutrients to your ladies. Thyme and rosemary also help as an anti-inflammatory to help with their respiratory system.
If you do create a designated area, please be sure to clean out any debris that might pile up such as leaves, rocks, and bird droppings (in my case cat droppings)! Also every few months, it’s nice to change it all out with a new fresh set of dirt. I find when it rains, you can turn over the dirt compilation with a shovel and I like to add a bit of fresh dirt on top so it’s nice and dry for them.
As they enjoy dust bathing you will enjoy watching them! Here’s a video of my ladies having a grand ole dirty fun time!
With love for all living things,
Crazy Sexy Cool Chicken Momma