dust bath for chickens

Make A Dust Bath For Chickens In Just 5 Minutes!

If you haven’t yet built a dust bath for chickens, now is the time to start.

 

Luckily, it’s an easy project to complete, and it won’t cost you very much (yay saving pennies, right?)

 

As you’ve watched your flock toss dust and crumbs of earth on themselves, did you ever wonder “Why do chickens take a dirt bath? Is it even necessary?”

Dust bathing is a very natural and necessary part of your chickens lives, and if you don’t provide one, your flock will find a way to create one in the most inconvenient spot you can imagine.

 

I speak from experience, friends.

 

Chickens are creative creatures, and will put a dust bath in the oddest places.

 

Ours have had great fun digging a dust bath next to a car tire, in seedling patches, or in my potted plants. So, anything can be a possible (and massively destructive) place for them to dig a dust bath hole.

 

Girls just wanna have fun!

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But why do chickens roll in dirt anyway?

 

Chickens HAVE to dust bathe – it’s how they keep themselves free of external parasites that can otherwise devastate their feathers and cause all sorts of nasty health problems.

 

A hen covered in dirt is a happy hen, and if you’ve never seen chickens rolling around and kicking earth over themselves you’re missing out.

 

Making your own dust bath for chickens also ensures that your hens are bathing with beneficial dirt, rather than dirt caked with manure, dead and decaying matter, etc, that harbor bad bacteria that can harm your birds.

 

You can also include parasite-preventing supplements and herbs to get your flock squeaky clean and ready to preen themselves.

 

So, let’s talk about how to make a dust bath for chickens.

 

While my chickens like to create a dust bath directly in the ground (and it’s not a bad decision!), I also like to use a food-safe plastic container to make sure they’re getting goodies like wood ash and diatomaceous earth that help keep them free of mites and lice.

 

The nice thing about a plastic bin is if it gets gross (and it will because chickens poop over everything), it’s really easy to clean.

 

A good choice is an old kiddie pool – it’s low enough that your chickens can easily get into it, and wide enough to accommodate more than one hen.


Because, let’s face it, when one chicken uses a dust bath, everyone else wants to join in, right?

 

So, if you choose something like a kiddie pool to make a dust bath for chickens, your flock is more likely to use it.

 

Other options are wood boxes or even a cement or mud brick bathing area.

 

dust bath for chickens

What dirt is best in my dust bath for chickens?

 

Next, let’s talk about what to actually put in your dust bath. You’ll need:

 

  • Loamy dirt or sand
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Wood ash (optional)

 

You can purchase sand or use regular ol’ dirt. We have loamy soil here (it’s mostly sand thanks to the Mississippi), so we just scoop dirt from our yard into the dust bath.

 

If you have super rich top soil, 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 for this project, but if you want to, you can easily get bags of topsoil for $1 at your local big box store.

 

Create a 1 or 2-inch layer of soil at the bottom of your container, smoothing it out so it’s even. Your chickens will mess it up quite quickly, but this step helps you judge how much diatomaceous earth or wood ash to add.

 

Next, sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the soil. This will help to get rid of any mites or lice on your chickens and prevent them.

 

dust bath for chickens

 

The amount of diatomaceous earth you use will depend on the size of your container, but I like to use a 2:1 ratio in favor of dirt.

 

If you plan to use wood ash (which will kill mites like diatomaceous earth, but isn’t as effective in my opinion), you can add it now.

 

If you want, you can pre-mix the DE and dirt, but without a doubt, your chickens will do it for you.

 

If you want, you can add herbs such as mint or sage to further repel parasites.

 

And voila – your dust bath for chickens is done!

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you think you’ll try making a dust bath for chickens? Leave a comment below!

 

References:

Scholz B, Urselmans S, Kjaer JB, Schrader L. “Food, wood, or plastic as substrates for dustbathing and foraging in laying hens: A preference test.” Accessed August 13, 2016.

 

Barnett JL, Tauson R, Downing JA, Janardhana V, Lowenthal JW, Butler KL, Cronin GM. “The effects of a perch, dust bath, and nest box, either alone or in combination as used in furnished cages, on the welfare of laying hens.” Poultry Science. 2009 Mar;88(3):456-70. doi: 10.3382/ps.2008-00168. Accessed August 12, 2016.

Summary
Article Name
Make A Dust Bath For Chickens In Just 5 Minutes!
Description
Making a dust bath for chickens shouldn't take forever. Keep your hens parasite-free with this dust bath you can build in just 5 minutes (and for pennies).
Author
FrugalChicken

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Maat

Maat

Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of "Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock," and the creator of the online courses Feeding Your Hens Right, Healthy Coop Boot Camp, and The Homestead Advantage. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside. So am I. Welcome to FrugalChicken. Whether you’re a seasoned homesteader, an urban farmer, or an apartment-dweller, I’m here to answer your questions, share my life with you, and learn from your experiences.

18 comments

  • Thank you for the info. I am doing this asap. Can you give bananas to chickens?

  • I have been using a small kiddie pool as a dust bath for my chickens, but when it rains the pool just fills with water and I’m just left with a pool of mud. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  • Where’s the best place to get DE?

  • How often do you need to change the dust bath

  • Maurice K. Dixon

    If you use a kiddie pool I would drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Drill several holes using a 1/2 inch size bit to allow the water to drain. If the hole is to small the dirt will clog it and it won’t drain well.

    • Great point! But if it gets wet, the dirt +DE will still turn to muck when it gets wet.

      • Maurice K. Dixon

        That’s a good point also. I guess I hadn’t thought of that because it’s been so dry here this summer. The dust has been more of a problem than the mud. And thank you for posting this. I’ve watched my chickens dusting there selves in the barn but didn’t realize why or how important it was. I’m still learning and always reading everything I can. But, my hens recently quit laying. I think they are done. They’re about 3 years old. Any suggestions? I don’t want to wait until the spring when they get chicks at the local farmers co-op.

        • Where do you live? You can still get chicks shipped in from certain hatcheries. Murray McMurray I believe still ships chicks this time of year. If you live where it’s warm, you shouldn’t have an issue raising them over the winter. Just make sure when the temp dips below 80 degrees to give them a heat source until they’re fully feathered. If you live in a cold area or shipping chicks in isn’t an option, you can post on craigslist that you’re looking for hens to buy, but that’s always a crap shoot. They might be too old or infrequent layers.

          • Maurice K. Dixon

            I live in East Tennessee. Right next to the beautiful Smokey Mountains. I have a heat lamp in the coop for the winter. It does get cold here. But this year has been unusually dry. I have heard of Murray McMurray’s but never ordered from them. Most people here seem to buy from the co-op or tractor supply. But I didn’t want to wait until the spring. I really like getting the eggs and taking care of the chickens. All my family gets eggs from me. And it gives me a sense country life, a bit of homesteading and separation from working in the city. A stress relief I guess. I enjoy any little bit of self sufficiency I can have. And thank you for your help.

  • I made a dirt bath last fall for my hens, with sand and dirt, I didn’t have time before the snow fell so the rooster don’t have a dirt bath area yet.

    • Sorry might be stupid to ask but do u have a different bath for the rooster ,just asking because although there is plenty room in the dust bath my rooster never uses it

      • No, everyone uses the same bath. Chickens can be particular about their bathing areas, so he might have a prefered spot you don’t know about. 🙂

  • I’m going to use grandchildren’s sand “box” this spring as it comes with a useful cover for my upcoming wet spring.

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