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Build a BETTER Dust Bath for your Chickens


Dust baths are a chicken's way of keeping clean.

The fine sand or dirt in their bathing area keeps their feathers in pristine condition and helps them stay free of mites, lice and other parasites.

Your chickens will enjoy bathing and sunning themselves - and often bathe in groups. It seems dust bathing is a communal activity!

Here are a few tips to building a BETTER dust bath area for your flock.


Build a BETTER Dust Bath for your Chickens


Often chickens will choose their own spot to bathe - whether it be next to your prized rose bushes or in the middle of your dirt driveway - creating deep 'bowls' as the wriggle and squirm to get the dirt deep under their feathers.

You can 'encourage' them to use the spot YOU choose by picking a dry spot that gets plenty of sun and is out of the wind. Once you've found your spot, it's time to get busy.

Stumps/Logs


I loved the idea of ringing the spot I chose in stumps, so after we lost a tree in a storm, my husband cut the trunk into logs and I was ready to set up the dust bath area!

The stumps help keep the dirt contained and every so often when I overturn the stumps, you should SEE the bugs and grubs for the girls to munch on!

Our chickens also love to stand or perch on the logs to get up out of the mud or snow.


Umbrella


My original dust bath area was great when the weather was dry, but took forever to dry out after it rained.

So I had the idea to construct an umbrella over the bathing area. I used a stick and old vinyl tablecloth for mine, but you could use a large beach or golf umbrella just as well.

Now the bath stays dry even in inclement weather and provides nice shade when the sun is directly overhead, but is still in the sun as the day progresses.


Dirt/Sand


Any loose, dry dirt or clean sand is a great medium for your dust bath.

We have sandy soil here, so I just carted a few wheelbarrows full into the run and dumped it into the bathing area.


Wood Ash/Fireplace Ash


Wood ash or charcoal is a wonderful addition to the dust bath area.

Charcoal contains Vitamin K (a blood clotting agent), calcium and magnesium so those benefits will translate when your hens nibble on the wood ash as they bathe and rummage through the bathing area, as they are prone to do.

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 helps cleanse the body of toxins, as well as internal parasites, much like charcoal pills for humans.

Note: Never use briquettes or any wood that has had lighter fluid or other chemical coating on it.


Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth


Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills mites, lice, fleas, ticks and other parasites by cutting through their hard-shelled exteriors, so is also great addition to a dust bath, although opinion varies about the safety.

It is non-toxic to mammals, but the dust and small particles can irritate the lungs and respiratory tracts of humans and chickens, so some experts advise not using DE in dust bath areas where the dust will get stirred up.

We do use it in our dust bath in small amounts and always cover it with some dirt, feeling that by mixing it with the dirt and wood ash it is less likely to become airborne and breathed in.

The potential risks of using DE are far out-weighed by the very real chance of your chickens contracting mites and then having to be treated with Sevin Dust, Frontline or another equally harmful carcinogen or commercial preparation, which we DO NOT ever recommend.

 So just take care when applying DE in the dust bath area.


Dried Herbs


Dried herbs sprinkled in the dust bath area can also be beneficial.

Dried lavender, mint, and rosemary are all good choices, as they are natural insecticides.

Dried anise, fennel, ginger, and seaweed also help repel parasites. Dried yarrow is an anti-inflammatory and helps clear respiratory systems as do thyme and rosemary.  

Dust baths not only help your chickens stay in tip-top condition, but also stay parasite-free.

Bathing is also a very enjoyable past time for them as they writhe in the dirt and then stretch out in the sun basking in the warmth together.

These few tips should help your chickens enjoy their best dust baths ever.

As the quote from Field of Dreams goes, "If you build it, he (they) will come." The same applies to dust baths!

-Dust bathing is nearly always a communal activity-
-even the little ones love bathing once Mom shows them how-

To read my original dust bath post from 2012, and see some great dust bathing 'action' shots, click HERE.

As a  general rule, chickens don't need to be bathed in water.

The dust baths should keep them clean, however if you notice dried poop in your chickens feet or around the vent area, you will need to get that rinsed off and your chicken cleaned up.


Charcoal and dried herbs - Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore , p. 68 (2007)
Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal Kingdom By Cindy Engel
Charcoal in dust bath- The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, p. 358 (1952)

Herbs in the dust bath - The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, p. 358 (1952)


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