There is nothing nicer on a warm day than watching your hens indulge in a chicken dust bath. We almost have to forgive the craters they create in the strangest of places, as well as in our flower beds and gardens for the sheer joy of seeing hens engaging in this wonderful activity! They close their eyes and roll in the dip they have created, throwing loose soil over themselves.
Folks that are new to hen keeping can find it rather disturbing and we do get phone calls to our Hen Helpline reporting that the hens are having a fit! But fear not, this is all part of your hens’ daily activities, much like the shower we humans take first thing in the morning.
So, why do chickens dust bathe?
Well, intrinsically hens are very clean creatures – they love to preen and groom themselves. Dust bathing is the way that they clean their feathers. The process helps to control parasites and prevents the feathers from becoming too oily.
Hens prefer dry loose soil or sand and often choose the ground underneath their coop. You can also buy chicken dust bath covers to keep the dry loose soil or sand from getting damp in colder weather. You can get one of these dust bath covers from our online shop here.
Be prepared for your hen to be very dusty at the end of the process, then stand back and watch as she shakes her feature and the dust goes flying – just like a dog!
Also, be aware, that hens normally have a preferred dust bathing spot, so don’t go planting your prized petunias anywhere that your hens have chosen to bathe in – they’ll be uprooted before you know it.
Does my chicken need a dust bath?
Strictly speaking, no. You don’t need us to tell you that hens living in commercial units do not have access to the luxury of a chicken dust bath, which in turn makes them more prone to lice. It is for this reason they are medicated instead.
However, much like humans don’t need to shower (although we strongly recommend that you do!), it contributes to a hen’s overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
Physically, for all the reasons listed above, but also mentally. If you’ve ever seen a hen taking a dust bath you’ll have spotted the sheer joy on their faces as they chuck dirt all over themselves.
So, just like a shower makes us feel fresh and revived, a chicken dust bath can offer the same benefits for our feathered friends too.
What dirt is best in my chicken dust bath?
There are a lot of different things that you can put in your hen’s dust bath to make it the best spa treatment for them. You can use the dirt that’s in your garden and mix it with other ingredients. You can use:
- Dirt or sand
- Diatomaceous earth powder
- Wood or fire ash
- Herbs, if desired
You can buy sand or use regular dirt. If you have rich topsoil, you might want to mix it with some sand. The point is to have loose dirt your flock can easily toss over themselves. You shouldn’t have to buy dirt to create a dust bath for your hens, but if you want to, you can easily get bags of topsoil at your local garden centre.
Fill a container with a layer of soil around 1 or 2 inches deep, smoothing it out so it’s even. Next, sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the soil. This will help to get rid of any mites or lice on your chickens and prevent them.
The amount of diatomaceous earth you will need to use will depend on the size of your container, but we suggest using a 2:1 ratio of dirt to DE powder. If you plan to use wood ash, you can add it after the DE powder.
You can also add natural ingredients like herbs such as mint, sage and lavender to repel mosquitoes, flies and ants and prevent parasites like mites, lice and ticks from taking hold of your hens. Sprinkle some dried lavender into your chicken dust bath to keep it fresh smelling too.
You can purchase Diatomaceous Earth powder from our online shop, along with many other products that will help you to create the best dust bath for your hens!
Other useful posts:
- Winter Dust Baths for Your Hens
- Diatomaceous Earth Powder; What It Is and How to Use It
- Keeping Your Hens Cool