Who doesn't love a spaw day? Hoomans and chickens do! However, while a relaxing day at the spa for a hooman might look something like fancy lotions and cucumber peels, dust baths for chickens are where it's REALLY at.
What is that chicken doing, you might ask? That hen is all dirty! Calm down hooman, calm down… this is normal chicken behavior. Our feathered friend is taking a dust bath. While chickens can create their own dust bath, we’re going to show you how to make a dust bath for chickens.
Why do Chickens Dust Bathe?
Like many mammals, chickens need to be spic and span. However, your flock gets dirty to become clean. 🤔 We promise we are not a few eggs short of a full basket.
Dust baths have many benefits for chickens. Another way to think of it is similar to a human's dry shampoo. We spray our heads with dry shampoo, which looks like white or colored powder on the hair/scalp. Then, we use our fingers to distribute it, so it soaks up oil and dirt. Similarly, chickens roll around and flap in the soil. The dust soaks up oil from their feathers and skin, exfoliates it, and helps them shed old/loose feathers. Additionally, the dirt makes their outer feathers water-resistant. Most importantly, it naturally kills parasites and bugs living on them.
After they are sufficiently covered in dust, chickens will fluff and shake their feathers. Next, you will see them using their beak to clean and preen their feathers. If they're not happy with the results, they will repeat the process. This sounds more extensive than most hooman spa days, right?
Finally, chickens are very social animals. Therefore, your chicken won’t bathe alone. Dust baths are a communal activity and enjoyable to watch.
What to Use
Chickens are smart and know dust bathing is vital for their health. If you don't provide a dust bath for your backyard flock, they will make one. Unfortunately, their location choice may not make you happy. It could be in a flower bed or in a patch of dead grass you're desperately trying to revive. To keep everyone happy, it's easier to provide a dust bath for your hens in a sunny spot. They love to sunbathe, and dust bathe at the same time. Here’s how to make one:
- Find a Container: In our article Tips to Keep Them Cool in Summer, we mentioned using a kiddie pool to help them cool down. You can also use a kiddie pool for a dust bath. Other recommended containers are sandboxes, shallow plastic or wood boxes/bins, tires, galvanized tubs, or fruit crates. To keep the mess down, you want a container that’s 12 inches/30 cm high.
- Add Dirt: Soil is the base ingredient for a dust bath. If you don't want to dig up your yard for soil to place in the dust bath, you can purchase topsoil or peat moss. Any non-clay based dirt is suitable. Fill the container half full of dirt.
That’s it. Really. Super simple.
Dust Bath Upgrades
Small Pet Select supporters love spoiling their pets, so we have a few more suggestions to give your chickens the ultimate dust bath. Why have plain water when you can have fruit-infused water at the hooman spa? The same applies to your flock's dust bath.
- Two is better than one: It’s best for your hens to have a dust bath in their coop and another in their run or outside. This gives them a variety of locations. Notably, in inclement weather, a dust bath inside the coop will make them happy.
- Protection: For your outdoor dust bath, protect the dirt from getting wet with a tarp or a patio umbrella. While chickens do love mud baths to cool down, it's not going to clean them.
- Add play sand: Mix play sand in with the dirt for different textures and better cleaning properties.
- Add dried herbs: Not only can your flock snack on the herbs while cleaning, but they also prevent insects from inhabiting the dust bath. If you have your own garden, just dry the herbs you harvest. You can also purchase them from the grocery store. Here are some herbs to mix in:
Have you built a dust bath for your chickens? Do you have any other tips for our flock of supporters? Please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our socials. Thank you 😊.