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How to make a dust bath for your chickens

Hen having a dust bath with Omlet Eglu Classic chicken coop behind

Wondering how to make a dust bath for your chickens? Most hens are perfectly content to dig up their own patch of earth to roll around and fluff their feathers in – but by making your own dust bath from chicken-safe ingredients, you’ll elevate your hens’ bathing from a metaphorical bucket of cold water, to a luxurious bubble (well, dust) bath.

Why do chickens need dust baths?

Dust baths are an important part of overall chicken health. Like humans, chickens bathe to get impurities off of themselves and to feel better in general. It may seem counterintuitive to roll in the dirt to get clean, but the right dust bathing spot can absorb moisture and oils on the skin, and can rid birds of mites and lice. Hens aren’t the only birds that enjoy a good roll in the dirt – many wild avian species can be observed taking dust baths.

Chickens will find a soft, dusty or sandy spot and scratch around in order to create a shallow well to plop down into. Once they’ve laid down, hens will wiggle back and forth while flapping their wings in a shoulder-shrugging motion. They will lay on each side and repeat the process until they are sufficiently coated in dust or sand. When they’re done, they’ll hop up and shake vigorously – just like a dog after a bath. After a quick feather preening they’ll be done and dusted (literally).

Bathing this way benefits chickens mentally as well as physically. Just like we may take a warm bath to unwind at the end of the day, dust bathing helps hens relax and feel better. Hens may also hit the dust when they feel like socializing – much like humans in a sauna or hot tub. You may notice hens taking a dust bath with 2 or 3 of their closest flock friends.

Making a dust bathing area for your chickens

Giving your hens a designated dust bathing spot will deter them from creating their own – potentially in your favorite flower bed or another less-than-desirable location. You can use cat litter pans, the tray from a small animal cage or the bottom part of an enclosed dog kennel. But, if you have larger hens or a large flock, they may need more space than these shallow basins have to offer.

Use your imagination to create a dust bathing spot for your hens. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • An old tire
  • Flexible storage tote
  • Livestock feeding pans
  • Plastic toddler pools

You can also create a permanent dust bathing area by digging out a shape in the ground and edging it with pavers or stones.

Dust bathing areas or containers should have an edge at least 12 inches above the “dust fill line” to avoid hens tossing all of the contents out during their vigorous cleaning sessions. Make sure that the edge is high enough to contain the dust, but also low enough to accommodate your smallest flock members.

Place your flock’s bathing area in a sunny spot. Chickens will seek out sunny areas to bathe in – especially during the winter months. Be sure to keep their bath in an area where it can stay dry. Wet dust bath contents will dry eventually if they get rained on – but depending on the amount it could take several days. Chickens will bathe daily, so try to keep it as dry as possible. A large, elevated chicken coop can provide the perfect spot underneath with just enough sunlight and protection from the rain.

5 things to add to a chicken dust bath

You can make your flock a nutrient-packing dust bath from simple ingredients – many of which you may already have at home.

1. Wood ash

One of the most beneficial ingredients to a good chicken dust bath is something you can find in your own home or backyard. Wood ash from fireplaces or outdoor fire pits are great additions to your hens’ bath. Ash contains vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium, and helps absorb toxins from the skin of chickens. You may see your hens eat some ash, which can also benefit them.

It’s important to only use wood ash if you’re sure of its source. Do not use any ash from treated wood or lumber, as it contains toxic chemicals that can harm your hens.

2. Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

This all-natural, silica-rich powder is a powerful anti-parasitic both on your hens and around their coop. DE destroys the exoskeletons of parasites like red mites, lice, fleas, and ticks. In fact, DE can also be added to your hens’ diet for additional parasite prevention. In addition to your flock’s bath, sprinkle some DE around the edge of your chickens’ run and coop to keep pests at bay.

3. Sand

Sand makes a great base for dust baths, but be sure to get the right kind. There are many types of sand available, but steer clear of children’s play sand, as it’s usually treated with chemicals. Aim for a coarse variety like contractor’s or multipurpose sand. Don’t use fine sand on its own – if ingested, fine sand can lead to crop impaction in hens.

The main purpose of sand is to ensure that the rest of your chicken dust bath ingredients don’t clump together, and to add weight to the mixture. If you’re using fine sand, make sure to mix it thoroughly with soil.

4. Top soil or peat moss

If you don’t want to dig up your own dirt, a bag of top soil or peat moss can be used instead. Widely available and inexpensive, bags of top soil and peat moss offer the benefits of natural soil without the hassle of digging it up.

5. Dried herbs

If you’re a chicken keeper that also gardens, you’ll likely have herbs available to add to your hens’ dust bath. Herbs help attract hens to bathing spots in addition to being beneficial for their skin and immune systems. Some herbs to add to your flock’s dust bath include:

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Parsley

Don’t forget to save some herbs for your hens’ feed as well as their bath. All of these herbs help to support a healthy hen diet and lifestyle – both inside and out.

Maintaining your chickens’ dust bath

For dust-bath maintenance, simply clean out any droppings that find their way in and refill the contents of the bath when needed. Some hens may bathe multiple times a day, while others may bathe every other day. Depending on how heavy the dust bath usage is, you may want to keep an air-tight container of pre-mixed chicken dust bath for easy refills.

While chicken perches are flock favorites, be sure not to place your hens’ dust bathing area directly below their perching areas to avoid accumulation of droppings. If you have a walk in chicken run, cover the portion of the run that has the bathing area with clear weather protection covers both on the top and sides to prevent the contents from getting wet. This will allow for sunshine to warm their dust bath without the risk of it turning into mud.

Omlet and your hens’ health

Keeping chickens healthy and happy doesn’t have to be a chore. With thoughtfully designed chicken products like the Eglu Cube Chicken Coop, Walk In Chicken Run, and Weather Protection Covers, taking care of your chickens has never been easier. A homemade chicken dust bath is the perfect addition to these purposefully crafted products.

Two hens outside having a dust bath

This entry was posted in Chickens

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