How to Make a Dust Bath For Chickens

Why Do Chickens Take a Dirt Bath? To Ward Off Mites and Other Parasites.


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.

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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.

dust bath

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. 

chicken dust bath

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.

dust bath

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.”

Rick Andrews

Originally published in 2013 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

  • I have made a dust bath using play sand but my hens just ate it, i have 43 one became sick please advise

  • i cut out one sidewall out of a tire and put the dust bath “ingredients”in it …works great for 4 chickens

  • I’ve made a dustbath but they’re not using it. It’s frozen. It’s -20 C here at night. Any suggestions? The only thing I did different, was, I never used sand

    • Sand alone never freezes. So, I would imagine that adding sand to your mix (as per the original recipe) would solve the problem, or at least keep the mixture a bit less “solid.”

  • Re my dust bath… my hens are warm in their house at night but go out into their warm straw bale house during daylight if they choose. The dust
    Bath is in the straw house

  • James P.

    I took an old wheelbarrow that had seen better days, removed everything from the barrow and filled it with wood ash, contractors sand and dirt. We can tell when our white chickens use it as they come out a light grey from the wood ash. It works well.

  • We have a kids pool filled with peat moss in the run, and a kids clam shell sand box separated into two separate pieces, and also filled with peat moss for the coop. In north central MN where we live the girls are sometimes stuck in the coop for months due to the harsh weather conditions, so I make sure they can still have a good dust bath.

  • Says wood ash out of your stove. Wouldn’t that really be too nasty and dirty, I mean the chickens would have black dust all over them. Rather have the dirt and sand.

    • Natasha T.

      The ash powder from the burnt wood is what helps to suffocate the mites & lice 🙂 Wood ash is your friend 😉

  • My coops currently have dirt floors so mine dug their own dust bath. I do add some Diatomaceous earth to the dirt. I also sprinkle it over the straw. When I go in their coops (especially biggest), I have to watch where i walk because I never know where they dug a new hole. I do periodically fill the holes back in so they can start over again digging a new hole. They seem to mainly dig the holes in coops in the winter or rainy times. When it’s dry, they love digging dust bath holes out in the pens. I might see about making them an actual dust bath later. The only way I can get wood ash is to build an outdoor fire pit and burn brush n trimmed branches – no wood burner/fire place and everyone I know burns coal for heat, not wood.

  • I just started raising chickens,I don’t have a fireplace and I live in the sunny south, where would I find wood ash.


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