If you are new to chicken keeping, don’t be alarmed to see your chooks rolling around like crazy in the dirt. It can look hilarious, but also a bit strange. Rest assured this is a completely natural chicken behavior. And quite literally, is a chicken taking a bath!
Dust bathing is a very natural and necessary part of your chicken’s life. Chickens use the dirt for a few reasons. Firstly, it is quite a social behavior and actually provides your chicken with some exercise. It also seems to be calming technique. In warmer weather, chickens may dig down to find cooler soil.
More importantly, chickens have to dust bathe. It provides a natural way for your chicken to keep themselves clean, exfoliate their skin, and helps shed old and loose feathers. Importantly, it helps to smother insects and parasites that may be living on them.
If you don’t provide a dust bath, chickens will find a spot themselves. Often this isn’t an ideal spot, they particularly like to do this in the middle of your vegetable gardens!
Even small chicks or pullets will enjoy practicing dust bathing, as young as a few days old in a small tub of dry dirt in their brooder, and then once they move outside in the big girls’ dust bath.
You can make a simple dust bath at home, and it can actually be quite fun!
Simple dust bath steps:
1. Choose a Container
This container needs to be low enough that chickens can easily climb in and out of it, but tall enough that it will contain the dust bath ingredients while your chickens bathe in it.
You could use an old kids’ shell pool, an old tyre, or any shallow tub you have lying around.
2. Add Soil
Soil is the main ingredient for your chicken’s dust bath. Any soil you have available is generally fine! Loose loamy soils are the best. Make sure it doesn’t have clay in it, as that is sticky. If you don’t have anything in your yard, you can buy a small bag of topsoil from Bunnings.
3. Add Wood Ash or Diatomaceous Earth
Next, add either Diatomaceous Earth , or Wood Ash.
Either or both of these powdery substances help to significantly cut down on insects living on your chickens. You can collect wood ash from your fireplace or outdoor fire pit. Any wood ash will do, but make sure it’s cool and dry. If you don’t have either of these available, you could use fine dry sand to substitute.
4. Add Dried Herbs
I think Dried Herbs are a great addition to your dust bath. If you select the right ones, they can really help ward off insects. Bought or homegrown is fine! Some great options are Lavender, Thyme, Mint, and Parsley. Or add our Nest Blend for the perfect premixed herbs and flowers.
Note: For the ULTIMATE Dust Bath, you can add out premixed Dust Bath to cover both steps 3 and 4.
Place your dust bath in the chicken run, in a dry area. They like to be in the partial sun if possible.
You want to keep the dirt dry and not sticky so being under some sort of cover is ideal.
You can mix all the ingredients together briefly, but leave the chickens to do the heavy-duty work for you!
Chickens are super inquisitive. Generally, when they see something new in their pen they will come to investigate! Putting some treats such as a bit of cracked corn or dried mealworms in the top could also encourage them over.
Things you shouldn’t add to the dust bath:
- Straw has hollow straws which are notorious for housing lice, mites and mould.
- Avoid cat litter for chicken dust bath as it contains additives and fragrances
- I would not use coal ash, which will have mercury, sulphur and heavy metals and can be smelly.
The most important thing is to make sure this is a fun activity for you and your chooks.
Remember, if you see your flock flicking dirt around and acting crazier than normal, this is a normal fun part of chicken life!
Happy chicken keeping!