A healthy and good smelling chicken NEEDS to take a dust bath on a regular basis. Chances are if your chicken is “not too fresh,” then they do not have access to a dust bath. But, a dust bath for chickens not only helps keep your flock smelling fresh, it is also a natural chicken mite treatment.
For those of you who have watched backyard chickens dust bathing, I think you will agree that it is not only comical, but shows your hens in the utmost state of contentedness.
During the act of dust bathing, chickens will do their best to get as much “dirt” as they can all over their bodies down to the base of their feathers. This in turn actually cleans the chicken (see ingredients below) and will asphyxiate pests that may potentially prey on them.
If you let your hens free range and DON’T provide a dust bath in the chicken pen and run, I guarantee that they WILL make a dust bath where your favorite plants are growing. It’s ingrained in their behavior and essential to their personal health. So … why not build a dust bath for chickens in your coop?
In order to get started, you’ll need a container that is at least 12″ deep, 15″ wide and 24″ long. I used an old apple crate that I had kicking around in the shed. It works great for my small flock of three.
The 4 ingredients that you will need are:
1) Builder’s sand (don’t waste your money on the more expensive kid’s play sand).
2) Wood ash – I get the ash from my wood stove and take out the larger charcoal pieces with a cat litter scooper.
3) Soil – If you are purchasing soil, make sure it is fertilizer, chemical, and vermiculite free.
4) Diatomaceous earth use – Make sure it is FOOD-GRADE and not for use in pools. The bag MUST read For LIVESTOCK FEED.
Add equal parts of each ingredient to the mixture and top up when necessary. You will know that your hens are using the dust bath if:
1) You find some of the “bath” contents on the coop floor.
2) You see them nestled up together in the crate throwing dirt on each other.
3) They are free ranging and suddenly shake from comb to feet and a cloud of dust emerges around your hen.
So, why not consider making a dust bath for chickens? It’ll sure beat them tearing up your prized petunias. You’ll be helping them out by reducing their risk to lice and mites and they, in return, will continue to thank you by providing those great fresh eggs.
If you already have a dust bath, why not drop me a line and let us know what you are using for your “chicken spa.”
Originally published in 2013 and regularly vetted for accuracy.