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Bathing Beauties - Why Dust Baths are So Important for Chickens


Dust baths are a chicken's way of keeping clean. The fine sand or dust keeps their feathers clean and helps them stay free of mites, lice and other parasites.

You can help make bathing easy for your chickens by finding a nice dry spot in the run where there is fine dirt or sand and adding some fireplace ash, food-grade diatomaceous earth and dried herbs.





Wood ash is a wonderful addition to the chickens' dust baths.  Make sure to only use wood fireplace ash, not briquettes or any wood that has had lighter fluid or other chemical coating on it.

 Charcoal wood ash contains Vitamin K (a blood clotting agent), calcium and magnesium. Charcoal absorbs toxins and research suggests that after forest fires, wild animals will consume it for its medicinal properties.

 Charcoal is also a laxative and removes impurities, as well as any worms, out of the body. Much like charcoal pills for humans, chickens can greatly benefit from the charred wood in their dust bath, as they will nibble pieces of it as they bathe.


Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills mites, lice, fleas, ticks and other parasites. The DE filters through the hard-shelled bodies of fleas, mites, ticks and other parasites. The razor-sharp microscopic silicon particles cut through the protective coating on their shells, causing them to become dehydrated, block their airways and attack their respiratory systems.

Note: Although DE is non-toxic and harmless to mammals when eaten, it is always best to wear a mask while using it because the small particles it can cause lung irritation in humans and chickens if the dust is inhaled. Some experts advise not using DE in dust bath areas because of the possible risks, but we feel any unproven possible risk far is far outweighed by the very real chance of your chickens contracting mites and then having to be treated with Sevin Dust or another equally harmful carcinogen or commercial preparation, which we DO NOT recommend.  So just take care when applying DE in the dust bath or coop area.

Dried herbs sprinkled in the dust bath area can also be beneficial and help prevent mites and other parasites. Dried lavender, mint, and rosemary are all good choices as they are natural insecticides.  Dried yarrow is an anti-inflammatory and help clear respiratory systems as does thyme and rosemary.


Setting up a dust bath area: 

I quickly found out that the chickens will bathe where THEY want to, not where YOU want them to, and ours have decided to bathe under the coop.  

But you can always encourage them to use a spot of your choice.  You can fill a wooden or plastic tub with your dirt mixture, create a bathing spot in a corner of the run, or make a ring of cut logs for them. They prefer to bathe in the sun, especially in the winter.

Your chickens will enjoy bathing and sunning themselves on nice sunny days and you will enjoy watching their antics as they squirm and twist and then shake all the dirt out. Of course the first time you catch them bathing you might think they are having convulsions or writhing in pain.



Bathing seems to be a social event and you will often see a few bathing at the same time.


Unless your chickens decide they like where you have chosen for them to bathe, your run will soon look like a mine field with small depressions and craters all over.

Try as I might, I can't get mine to stick with one place to bathe in and I just add DE and ash to one area and they move to a different part of the run.
              


Dust Baths for Chicks:

It's good to start your chickens off with good hygiene habits at a young age. I fill a small plastic tray with sandy dirt and put it in the brooder box for my new chicks.

 Even week-old chicks will hop into the tray and squirm around and flap their wings. It's healthy for them, keeps them busy and they are adorable to watch.  The dirt doubles as the 'grit' they need to digest their food also.


As the chicks get older, their bath gets bigger....


When they are finally old enough to spend time outdoors, the bath goes outside with them.


Dust bathing seems to be one of my chickens' favorite pastimes. Encourage yours by creating an environment where they can bathe in comfort. They will thank you.




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