Chickens like to take baths. Not with water, though. Trust me, giving a chicken a water bath is not the best way to spend a weekend afternoon.
The next best thing is to create an area in your run or coop for your chickens to dust bathe.
Here’s how to do it – and why you really should!
What is a Chicken Dust Bath?
A chicken dust bath is an essential part of a chicken’s hygiene routine. It helps to remove dirt, parasites, and other debris from the feathers and skin. Dust baths also help to regulate a chicken’s body temperature and keep their feathers in good condition.
To take a dust bath, chickens will first find a dry, loose spot of dirt or sand. They will then start flapping their wings and kicking up the dust, covering their bodies in a fine layer.
Once they are thoroughly coated, they will shake off the excess dust and return to their normal activities.
Chicken owners can provide their feathered friends with a designated dust bath area, or they can simply let them find their own spot in the yard.
Why Do Chickens Take Dust Baths?
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 about 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 huge holes, easily fitting 2-3 chickens in them at once. Our chickens will also go back to the same place time after time to dust bathe there.
What is the Ideal Depth and Size for a Chicken Dust Bath?
According to poultry experts, a chicken dust bath should be about 6 inches deep and have a diameter of 2-3 feet.
The depth is important because it allows the chickens to fully immerse themselves in the dust.
The diameter is important because it allows multiple chickens to bathe at the same time without getting in each other’s way.
How to Make a Chicken Dust Bath
Here are some tips.
Step 1. Choose a Container
If you’re looking for a container for your dust bath, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The size of the container is important, as your chicken will need enough space to move around and fully cover itself in dust.
A shallower container will also work well, as it will be easier for your chicken to get in and out of. It’s also important to choose a container that has good drainage, as wet dust can cause respiratory problems for chickens.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure the container is sturdy enough to withstand some vigorous dust-bathing! Once you’ve considered all of these factors, you’ll be able to choose the perfect container for your chicken’s dust bath.
Here are some options…
Just Dig a Hole
It can be quite simple to create a dust bath for your backyard birds. Just dig a hole in the ground and fill it with sand or fine dirt.
The hole should be big enough for the bird to fit into and deep enough to cover the bird’s body when it is buried. Once you have created the bath, just sit back and watch the birds enjoy themselves!
Try Using a Shallow Bin
Fill the bin with a mixture of sand and dirt, and then add some wood ash or diatomaceous earth to help absorb moisture.
Place the bin in a warm, sunny spot, and let your chickens enjoy a refreshing dust bath. Not only will they thank you for it, but you’ll also save money on chicken care products.
Make a Dust Bath From an Old Tire
To make a dust bath, simply place the tire in a shady spot and fill it with sand or dirt. The chickens will then jump in and start dusting themselves. When they’re finished, they’ll be clean and ready for another day in the coop.
So if you’ve got an old tire taking up space in your yard, put it to good use by making a dust bath for your chickens.
You can easily build a dust bath for your birds by filling a sandbox with sand. The sand should be fine-grained and free of any chemicals or other contaminants.
You can also add a little bit of gravel or crushed oyster shells to the sand to help with drainage.
Once the sandbox is filled, place it in a warm, sunny spot in your yard where your birds can enjoy their dust bath without being disturbed.
Broken or Old Kiddie Pool
One simple solution is to use a broken or old kiddie pool. We use broken ones that once served as pools for our ducks. This helps to recycle what we have, keeping our garbage down, as well as keeping all our flocks happy.
We use broken ones that once served as pools for our ducks. This helps to recycle what we have, keeping our garbage down, as well as keeping all our flocks happy.
Place the kiddie pool in an area where snow, rain, or water will not be able to get to it. Or at least not much.
Our “barn” isn’t very watertight on the inside, but it works. We put the kiddie pool close to where the chickens roost and where their food is for easy access.
Step 2. Adding Your Dirt
Add 3-4 shovels of loose dirt. Sandy, loamy dirt seems to work best for us, as it doesn’t get packed down as quickly. We also add some dry leaves between each dirt layer. This helps to keep the dirt aerated.
Step 3. Add Some Extra “Ingredients”
Add a generous sprinkling of DE (diatomaceous earth) on top of the dirt, and watch your chickens clamor for their new “spa” area!
This dirt WILL get disappear over time as the chickens push it out during their bath. When this happens, we rake up the dirt and add it back in as much as possible.
Many people recommend adding wood ash to the mix. Wood ash helps to absorb moisture and can also help to control parasites. As a result, it makes an excellent addition to any dust bath.
One way to keep chickens interested in their dust bath is to add some fragrant herbs. Many chickens enjoy the scent of lavender, rosemary or mint, and the herbs can also help to repel parasites.
To use, simply mix a handful of fresh or dried herbs into the dust bath. The scent will help to keep chickens occupied while they are bathing, and it will also help to keep their feathers healthy and free of pests.
Other good herbs to consider adding to your dust bath container include:
- Lemon balm
Add Stumps or Logs as Perches
A hen dust bath is simply a shallow pit filled with sand or dirt, which the chickens use to roll around in and preen their feathers. Unfortunately, this often results in the chickens kicking sand and dirt all over the place.
To help contain the mess, try adding stumps or logs around the edge of the pit. The chickens can perch on these, keeping their feet out of the dirt.
This will help to reduce the amount of dirt that gets kicked around, and it will also give your chickens a place to rest while they enjoy their dust bath.
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.
Step 5. Cover the Bath to Keep it Dry
Dust baths can quickly become wet and muddy, making it difficult for chickens to stay clean.
To prevent this, it is important to cover the bath with a tarp or other waterproof material. This will help to keep the sand dry and prevent mud from forming after rain showers.
A Few More Dust Bath Tips
Here are a few more tips on how to make sure your dust baths are clean and fresh.
Introduce Your Girls to it Early
It is beneficial to provide your girls with a dust bath area early on so that they are used to it. You can use a simple sandbox, or even just an empty cardboard box filled with sand or dirt.
How to Dry Out a Chicken Dust Bath
If your chicken dust bath got rained on, there’s no need to fret. There are a few simple steps you can take to dry it out so that your chickens can continue to enjoy their dust baths.
- First, wait for the rain to stop and then remove any standing water from the bath.
- Next, add more fresh, dry dust to the bath and mix it around until the desired consistency is achieved.
- Finally, let the sun and wind do their work by allowing the bath to dry out completely before your chickens use it again.
Do Baby Chicks Need Dust Baths?
Many people believe that baby chicks need dust baths in order to stay clean and healthy. However, this is not actually the case.
Baby chicks do not have fully developed feathers, and their bodies are not yet able to produce the necessary oils for a dust bath.
In fact, giving a baby chick a dust bath can actually be harmful. The dust can irritate their skin and eyes, and it can also lead to respiratory problems as their respiratory systems aren’t quite well developed enough yet.
For these reasons, it is best to wait until a chick is older before giving them a dust bath.
Know What NOT to Put in a Dust Bath
Ah, the dust bath. It’s a key part of a bird’s grooming routine, and it’s also fun to watch them fluff up and get all coated in dust.
But what many people don’t realize is that not just any old substance can be used for a dust bath. In fact, using the wrong material can actually be harmful to birds.
One common mistake is using kitty litter. Cat litter is made of clay, which can adhere to a bird’s feathers and cause respiratory problems.
Additionally, kitty litter often contains chemicals that can be toxic to birds. Sawdust can also be problematic, as it can stick to their feathers and be difficult to remove.
You can use charcoal, but only in moderation. Wood shavings are fine in the coop but don’t have much of a place in the dust bath mixture, since they won’t necessarily help your chickens clean themselves and don’t really have antibacterial properties, either.
A chicken dust bath is essential for your backyard chickens to prevent mites, fleas, lice, and all kinds of other problems. It’s perfect for free range birds as well as those who live most of the year in a chicken coop.
What do you do to help keep your chicken flock happy? Do you make a dust bath area for them or will you try it now? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
2 thoughts on “Creating A Chicken Dust Bath Area”
We heat with wood in the winter here. It is also so cold here in northern Canada that we have to keep them inside from Nov to Mar if we are going to get eggs in the winter. So space is limited. We allow aprox 5 sq ft of floor space per bird. What I have done for years is put cold dry wood ash in 1 of the nest boxes. They must be using it for dust baths, because we have to top it up periodically & they never lay eggs in it. They still dust-bath outside & in the deep litter/compost some. But we have never had any sign of lice problems.
adding wood ash is a GREAT idea!