Chickens have an odd
habit of bathing in the dirt. They find a dry spot with a lot of
loose soil and then scratch and flap their wings until their whole
bodies are coated with a layer of dust.
Even though the idea seems counterintuitive to us, dust baths actually
make a lot of sense in the chicken world. Parasites (mites and
lice) can build up on a chicken’s body to the point where the birds get
sick or even die, but a few minutes scratching in dry soil on a regular
basis clogs the parasites’ pores and causes them to suffocate. I
read a lot about red mites on other chicken keepers’ blogs, but our
chickens never seem to develop a problem, presumably because of their
frequent dust baths.
Unless your chickens are
closely confined, chances are they’ll make a dust bath for
themselves. A patch of bare dirt combined with enough sunny days
to dry off the surface is all it takes.
Some chicken owners go a
step further, though, creating a dust bath box inside their chickens’
coop. That way, the flock will have a spot to dust bathe even if
the weather is too cold or wet to allow outside bathing. You can
fill a planter, plastic storage bin, or wooden box with about six
inches of soil, optionally adding in sand, diatomaceous earth, or wood
ashes for even better results. You can mix all of these
ingredients into an outside dust bath too, but wood ashes will have to
be replenished after every rain.
My final word of wisdom
on chicken dust baths is — don’t think your chicken’s dead if you
find her in an odd pose out in her pasture. I have to admit that
I’ve been taken in by the post-flutter sunning period multiple
times. That chicken lying on her side with her legs and wings
stretched out just doesn’t look alive…but she is.
chicken health. Our chicken waterer is always POOP-free.