When I was a kid, we had a small farm with various animals – including chickens.
Now, because I was just a few years old at the time, I only have vague memories of collecting eggs from the chicken coops, walking over dust, and watching as the chickens rolled around in said dust.
Chickens are germophobic, they are very diligent self-groomers and dust bathing allows them to get rid of all the nasty creepy crawly things that can cause health problems for them.
Dust bathing is also good for absorbing excess moisture and oil from a chicken’s body, and is a very social experience. It also loosens old feathers at moulting season, allowing the new feathers to come through.
So, why do chickens like them? Well, apart from dealing with parasites; it keeps their feathers clean and healthy and helps them cool down in the summer.
With that said, here are things you should add to a chicken dust bath, and a few things you shouldn’t.
8 Things You Can Add
1: Fine Sand and Dry Dirt
Fine sand and dry dirt are a great base material for the bath. The sand keeps everything from forming clumps, and the dry dirt adds grit for which your birds can forage.
2: Diatomaceous Earth
This stuff is used in dust baths because it gets into the spaces between the feathers and kills off mites, parasites, and lice.
3: Firepit Ashes
In addition to helping get rid of pests, the wood ashes from your firepit provide magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K. These are absorbed by the chickens while they scratch/forage through it.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use ashes from a blaze started with lighter fluid or fire-starting bricks as they’ve got chemicals in them which will harm your birds.
Quick note: The presence of potash presents a possibility of severe skin burns if this stuff comes into contact with water.
Lavender is great because, in addition to its pleasant scent, it’s a natural pest repellent. Mosquitos and other types of pests (ants, flies, mites, lice, and ticks) from pestering your birds and causing health problems.
A pleasant-smelling, powerful natural pest repellent, lemon also has anti-bacterial properties. So, in addition to keeping the creepy crawly things away from your birds, it’ll also aid in the healing process for scratches and wounds.
6: Peat Moss
If you’re living in an area where your soil has a high clay content and you want to keep the dust bath soft and un-clumped, then a bit of peat moss will do the trick. It also keeps your dust bath from becoming a swimming pool, absorbing 20 times its weight in water.
7: Sulfur Dust
Setting up bags of sulfur dust near food dishes so that your birds will rub against them provides an easy and relatively long-lasting method of pest control.
Apart from having a nice scent, some herbs are also natural pest-repellents which makes them a good choice to add to your birds’ dust bath. Some good ones to use are: thyme, sage, mint, ginger, and garlic.
3 Things you Shouldn’t Add
1. Cat Litter
It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Cat litter is for cats, not chickens. You can’t use cat litter in a chicken dust bath! It’s got all kinds of funky additives and fragrances and can cause potential health problems.
2. Coal Ash
Apart from its awful smell, coal ash contains mercury, Sulphur, and heavy metals which will wreak havoc on your birds’ overall health.
3. Commercial / Synthetic Fire Log Ash
Commercially available, synthetic logs have different types of dyes, resins, glues, and other preservatives/additives which remain present in the ash. This makes the ash unsafe for use as part of a dust bath as the chemicals will cause serious health problems.
There you have it, things that should (and shouldn’t) be added to a chicken’s dust bath! I had fun with this one and hopefully you enjoyed it and found it informative. As always, thanks very much for reading and I’ll see again in the next article.
Greg spent most of his childhood in camping grounds and on hiking trails. While he lives in suburbs nowadays, Greg was raised on a small farm with chickens. He’s a decent shot with a bow, and a knife enthusiast.