One of the most rewarding pleasures of raising chickens is watching them express their natural behaviors in your own backyard. Chickens are known to be curious and adventuresome, so it can be very entertaining to watch them roam, scratch, peck, and dust bathe to their heart’s desire. One EZ way to encourage your hens to unleash their wild side is to provide environmental enrichments for your flock, such as dust bathing stations.
What is Dust Bathing?
After a long day, most of us can't wait to go home, hop in the shower, and wash off all of the dirt and grime that we acquired throughout the day. For your hens, providing a way for them to clean themselves off is just as important.
For chickens, dust bathing works as a natural insecticide against lice, mites, and other bugs and parasites. When chickens start to feel dirty, grimy, or itchy, their instincts kick in and they dig in the soil, burrow, and use their wings to throw dirt on themselves until they are coated in a layer of dirt. While it may sound like this ritual would make your birds more dirty and susceptible to insects, the dirt helps to absorb oil and suffocate bugs and parasites that lie beneath your hens feathers.
Providing a Dust Bathing Box
If your flock is confined to a coop or run, providing a space for them to dust bathe is an important element of chicken care. In the winter months, having access to a dust bathing area is especially important because snow or frozen ground can prevent your chickens from having access to adequate dirt. Plus, if you don’t provide a space for one, your flock will find a way to create one in the most inconvenient spot you can imagine.
Making your own dust bath for your chickens also ensures that your hens are bathing with beneficial dirt, rather than manure, decaying matter, or anything else that may be harboring harmful bacteria.
Once you find the perfect spot, you can begin to choose which materials you want to use to craft a DIY spa retreat for your flock!
Bathing Box: First, you need to choose a suitable bathing box for your hens. Kiddie pools and sandboxes are ideal because they are shallow enough for your hens to easily climb in and out.
Once your box is ready to go, there are many different types of materials besides dust and dirt that you can add to your dust bathing station to make it a little more inviting to your hens. Three of the most common dust bathing additives are:
Sand: Fine sand is one of the best materials that you can mix with the soil in your hens bathing box. Sand acts as a natural exfoliator, enabling it to further exfoliate your chickens skin and knock off mites and parasites.
Wood Ash: Wood ash, when used sparingly, is also a healthy additive for a bathing box due to the high presence of magnesium, calcium and vitamin K. Fine wood ash also gets down to the base of the flock’s feathers to help clear out any unwanted pests. However, you want to use wood ash that was naturally burned in a fireplace and that does not contain any remnants of lighter fluid or other chemicals that could be harmful to your hens.
Herbs: Harness your inner DIY genius by getting creative with dried herbs! There are many types of herbs that are beneficial for chickens such as lavender, sage, oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary and more! Dried herbs not only help to keep insects away, they may also leave your chickens with a pleasant smell and a tasty treat as they nibble while they are bathing.
- Check out this list of over 50 more herbs that benefit chicken health!
Ready-Made Dust Mix: For the chicken owner who values saving time, there are a few pre-made options on the market that can be purchased.
Now that your bathing box is ready to go, you will want to properly keep up with maintaining a safe bathing environment. This can be accomplished by cleaning out chicken droppings on a regular basis and by completely refreshing the contents of your bathing station every few weeks.
Congratulations! You are one step closer to supplying your flock with the tools they need to get squeaky-clean! Looking for more ways to take care of your chickens? Visit our store for all of your chicken care supplies from coops and runs to feeders and waterers.