Chickens like to take baths. Not water baths, though. (trust me, giving a chicken a water based bath is not the best way to spend a weekend afternoon-as we learned from bathing chickens for 4H) The next best thing is to create a chicken dust bath area in your run or coop.
Chickens like to take dust baths. They will find some loose dirt, dig a space and lay down. Then, they will roll around, kicking up the dust onto themselves. The first time you see it, it can look like the chickens are convulsing. Or dying. Or both. The chicken can spend up to 20 minutes in the dust bath, rolling in the dust and chilling out.
Why do chickens take dust baths? For a couple of reasons:
- it helps to cool them in the warmer summer months
- it helps to keep lice or other pests at bay
- it helps to dry up greasy feathers
In the summer months when there is plenty of open dirt, chickens can easily make their own dust bath area. We sprinkle some DE (food grade) where the dust bath holes are. It’s easy to find them, they are the holes that are huge, easily fitting 2-3 chickens in at once. Our chickens will also go back to the same place time after time to dust bathe there. Sprinkling some DE in that area helps to keep lice at bay, and helps to get rid of them if they are infected. See more on that here.
So, how to make a dust bath area in the winter? What will help the chickens stay healthy and happy when the ground is covered with snow and ice?
Simple. A broken up kiddie pool. We use broken ones from our ducks that will no longer hold water for our chicken dust bath area. This helps to reuse what we have, keeping our garbage down as well as keeping all our flocks happy.
Take the kiddie pool, and place it in an area where snow, rain or water will not be able to get at it. Or at least not a whole lot. Our “barn” isn’t super water tight on the inside, but it works. We put it close to where the chickens roost and where their food is, for easy access.
Add 3-4 shovels of loose dirt. Sandy, loamy dirt seems to work best for us, as that doesn’t get packed down as quickly. We also add some dry leaves between each dirt layer, just to keep the dirt aerated.
Add a generous sprinkling of DE (find it here from my affiliate partner) on the top and watch your chickens clamor for their new “spa” area!
This dirt WILL get used up over the course of the winter as the chickens push it out during the course of their bath. When that happens, we rake up the dirt and dump it back in as best as we can. You can also add a bag of topsoil from the local home improvement store if you would like to keep the dust bath area more full.
What do you do to help keep your chicken flock happier in the winter? Do you make a dust bath area for them or will you try it now? Be sure to pin this for later!