If you’ve ever seen a chicken take a dust bath, you know that it’s a pretty comical sight. But what you may not know is that there’s more to a dust bath than just chickens having some fun.
In this post, we’ll explain what chickens are doing when they take dust baths, and why it’s important for their health.
I’ll also give you some advice on how to make your own!
Why Do Chickens Need a Dust Bath?
While it may seem like a strange habit, dust bathing serves an important purpose for chickens.
First of all, it helps to remove any excess oils from their feathers. This is important because it helps to keep their feathers clean and free of dirt and debris. In addition, dust bathing also helps to control parasites.
By repeatedly rolling in the dust, chickens can remove any parasites that may be lurking in their feathers.
There is even a social element to dust bathing! Think of it as your morning coffee shop – but instead of sharing a cup of joe with your neighbor, you’re rolling in the dirt. Hey, it works!
How to Make a Chicken Dust Bath: Step by Step
Want to make your chickens their very own dust bath? Here are the steps and ingredients to make a dust bath that your chickens will love.
1. Find a Container
First, find a container. Usually, all you need is a shallow bin or kiddie pool. The bin should be low enough for the chickens to climb in, but tall enough to contain the ingredients. Add a layer of sand, followed by a layer of dirt.
Finally, add a layer of wood ash. Chickens love to roll around in the dust bath, so make sure they have plenty of space. Once they’re done, they’ll be clean and smell great!
2. Add Soil
Next, add soil. Any garden or yard soil will do.
You can also add diatomaceous earth or wood ash to the mix. Diatomaceous earth is a natural insecticide that helps to kill fleas, ticks, and other pests. Wood ash helps to repel snakes and keeps mites in check.
Simply add a layer of soil to the bin, then let your chickens loose to roll around and enjoy their dust bath.
3. Add Some Herbs
If you want to make your chicken’s dust bath even more effective, consider adding some herbs.
Basil, lavender, oregano, lemon balm, sage, mint, and parsley are all good options. Not only will they help ward off insects, but they’ll also make the dust bath smell nice.
You can even add some edible weeds to the mix. Chickens love to forage, and they’ll appreciate the chance to nibble on something delicious while they’re getting clean.
4. Position the Dust Bath
Finally, position it in a covered area. This will help to protect the bath from the elements and ensure that your chickens can enjoy it for many years to come. You can also use a tarp to cover the bath, which will help to keep the area clean and tidy.
Why Do Chickens Throw Dirt On Themselves During A Dirt Bath?
Once a chicken is offered a dirt bath, expect the hens to spend a whole lot of their time wriggling about, rolling, and flapping their wings in the loose dirt. This behavior is instinctive, even when the poultry birds are mere chicks.
The dust that attaches to the bodies and feathers of the birds clogs up the pores any parasites on their bodies must have open in order to breathe.
A little time in a dirt bath will kill the nasty parasites, and help prevent others from turning your chickens into their hosts.
How Do Chickens Take Dust Baths?
When in a dust bath, the chicken will start the process by scraping its feet into the soft, fine, and dry loose soil mixture. Next, it will place her breast down onto the surface of the dirt, and start rolling around.
Often, the hen enjoys herself so much that she rocks or sways back and forth. An indentation from the hen’s movement will be created in the soil if it is the proper consistency.
Once all settled into the dust bath, the hen will vigorously flap her wings to toss the dirt all about her body to clean it – much like a child will do in a bubble bath – maybe not to cleanse themselves, but to get all sudsy and wet while playing with their water toys.
Why Are My Chickens Digging Holes In Their Dirt Bath Or Coop Run?
Chickens will dig holes in the ground in their run if they are not provided with a dirt bath. A stubborn hen will work all day long to dirt and peck a hole into even the hardest ground so she can have dirt, or at least a dust bath.
The holes in the coop run or the ones the hens dig into the softer and more loose soil in a dirt bath to help keep cool, or sometimes even to lay their eggs.
Do Chickens Like Water?
The short answer to this question is no… not at all. But, surprisingly enough, some chickens have been known to attempt to swim alongside the ducks they are kept with.
Now, the chickens will not venture very far out into the water like your meat and egg ducks, but they may go in up past their legs to cool down, or in search of a meal.
But, far more often than not, you will never see a chicken willingly get wet to swim or take a bath. They prefer a dirt bath to water almost exclusively.
This is a very good thing because chickens will sink to the bottom of a pond like a rock once they get soaking wet because they do not secrete an oil like the ducks and will become too weighted down with wet feathers to stay afloat.
Do Roosters Like Dirt Baths?
Some do and some don’t. I have never personally had a rooster that liked to take dirt baths, but some homesteading friends of mine have.
Typically, if a rooster is at all interested in a dirt bath, it will wait politely until the gals are all done before he ventures into the container to “wash” himself.
Expect to see an attentive and protective rooster patrol around the dirt bath area when the hens are having their fill of socializing, and ridding themselves of dust mites.
Do Any Other Farming Animals Like Dirt Baths?
Homesteaders should not expect to ever catch a duck hen hanging out in the dirt bath with the chicken hens.
While a duck might walk through a dust bath to eat bugs on occasion or maybe even lay an egg in the dirt (and then abandon it if it is a Pekin duck) they will not use the loose soil to rid themselves of mites, ticks, etc.
Meat rabbits, on the other hand, have been known to enjoy spending time in dirt baths. When making dirt baths for your chicken flock, scrounge up an extra container to place in the meat rabbit run or hutch.
How Many Dirt Baths Do I Need?
On average, you will need one standard tire-size dirt bath for every 8 to 10 hens, or 5 mature rabbits.
When making a dirt bath for chicks, make sure that the container being used is shallow enough for the young birds to easily get in and out of.
If getting into the dirt bath or flopping back out is too challenging or scary of a proposition, the little chicks will simply not use it.
Chicks generally want to huddle in small groups. I recommend making a chick dirt bath large enough for all of the little bundles of feathers to get in at once, just in case they refuse to separate long enough for a necessary dirt bath.
The dirt placed in the chick dust bath should only be deep enough so the birds can have their underbelly fully covered.
Creating a dirt bath that is too deep can intimidate the birds, and even when a loose soil mix is used, it might be too tough for them to wiggle and flap about in.
What Herbs Go in a Chicken Dust Bath?
While chickens will dust bathe on their own if given the opportunity, you can also create a dust bath for them using a variety of different herbs. Some good options include lavender, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.
Simply mix these herbs together and place them in an area where your chickens can reach them. The strong smell of the herbs will help to keep pests away, and your chickens will enjoy the luxurious feel of the herbs as they bathe.
What About a Baby Chick Dust Bath?
Most baby chicks don’t really need dust baths, but if you want to give them one it’s generally ok. It can help them get used to the process when they are older.
Just be careful with the ingredients and keep it basic, because baby chicks have delicate respiratory systems.
Some people use things like sand, dirt, or even ashes, but all you really need is some fine dry material like wood shavings or cornmeal.
Put a few inches of it in a shallow container and let your chicks get in and roll around. They’ll start preening themselves and getting rid of any unwanted attachments.
Once they’re done, make sure to remove any wet material from their feathers so they don’t get chilled.
Dust Bath for Chickens in Winter
Many people believe that chickens should not take dust baths in winter because they might get cold.
However, this is not the case. Chickens are actually quite resilient to cold weather and can take dust baths even when it is snowing. In fact, taking a dust bath is an important part of a chicken’s winter care routine.
Dust bathing helps to remove dead skin cells and parasites, and it also provides essential moisture to the chicken’s skin.
This is another reason why it’s important to put the dust bath for your chickens under cover – it can protect it from snow, ice, and moisture build-up during the coldest days of the year.
How Big Should a Chicken Dust Bath Be?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to provide about one square foot of space for each chicken. So, if you have a flock of four chickens, you’ll need a dust bath that’s at least four square feet in size.
Ideally, the dust bath should be located in a dry, sheltered spot in the coop or yard. It’s also important to make sure that the sides of the bath are high enough to keep the chickens from kicking out all of the loose dirt.
Depth is another important consideration.
The dust bath container should be large enough to hold about one foot of dirt.
Ideally, the chicken bath that can hold enough dirt, and allow ample freedom of movement for at least three mature hens at once should measure a minimum of 15 inches by 24 inches (40 cm by 60 cm).
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about chickens and dust baths. Keep these tips in mind if you are lucky enough to have some feathered friends of your own, and enjoy watching them take a bath!
Do you have any questions or comments about chickens and dust baths? We would love to hear from you.
Dust Bath FAQ
Sand is a great option for a chicken’s dust bath. It is soft and absorbent, so it will help to soak up any dirt and oil on the feathers. Plus, sand is also relatively inexpensive, so it won’t break the bank to provide your chicken with a luxurious dust bath.
A chicken dust bath should be big enough to allow the chicken to spread its wings and move around freely.
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor.