Chickens are simple creatures, but they still have basic needs, and a dust bath is one of them!
Why do chickens need a dust bath?
All chickens get clean by getting dirty.
Chickens don’t take traditional baths with water, but instead roll and flap around in the dirt. This helps to exfoliate their skin, shed old and loose feathers, and most importantly, to smother insects and parasites that may be living on them.
Chickens are prone to getting mites and lice, tiny parasites that rob the chickens of their health, and may even cause death.
Dust baths help chickens to naturally combat these insects, and as a chicken keeper, it’s your job to provide that dust bath for your birds!
If you don’t provide a dust bathing area for your chickens, you can bet they’ll make one on their own!
Chickens are instinctively driven to takes dust baths, and they’ll do it anywhere they can find loose soil, including your garden.
Providing a dust bathing area for your birds is not only good for their health, it can keep them out of your precious landscaping.
How to Make a DIY Chicken Dust Bath
Making your own dust – or dirt – bath for your chickens isn’t an exact science, and there are lots of different ways to go about it.
We’ll give you some basic ideas here, and you can get creative with it based on what you already have on hand.
Step 1: Choose a Container
The first step is to find a suitable container for the dust bath.
The container needs to be low enough that chickens can easily climb in and out of it, but tall enough that it will contain the dust bath ingredients while your chickens bathe in it.
A kiddie pool is the ideal dust bath container, but shallow bins, old tires, and sandboxes work as well.
Step 2: Add Soil
Soil is the base ingredient for your chicken’s dust bath. The soil that you use for the dust bath can truly be anything that’s easily available to you.
Loose, loamy soil from the garden or yard will work well, just make sure it doesn’t have clay in it. If you don’t want to go digging around in the yard, you can buy a bag of top soil or peat moss to use in its place.
When we make our chicken dust bath, we add half soil and half wood ash, which we’ll go over next!
Step 3: Add Wood Ash or Diatomaceous Earth
The next thing to add to your chicken’s dust bath is either wood ash or Diatomaceous Earth.
Both of these powdery substances help to significantly cut down on insects living on your chickens. Wood ash can come from your wood stove or an outdoor fire pit. Any wood ash will do, but do make sure it’s cool and dry. Wet wood ash will not do any favors for your flock.
There’s no need to filter the wood ash either, if there are small chunks of charcoal in there, you can leave them. Chickens might nibble on the charcoal but it won’t hurt them.
Aside from making a chicken dust bath, wood ash has so many brilliant uses around the home and garden.
If you don’t have access to wood ash, you can buy Diatomaceous Earth, also called DE, and use it instead. This bag of Harris Diatomaceous Earth is the most popular brand.
DE is a powdery substance made from the fossilized remains of phytoplankton. It works just like wood ash to kill pests and parasites living on your chickens without harming the birds themselves.
Step 4: Add Dried Herbs
Dried herbs are not completely necessary for your dust bath, but if you have them available they’re a nice touch!
Dried herbs can help your chickens to ward off insects. The birds might even nibble on the herbs while they take their bath, which will only help their health.
You can buy dried herbs, but it’s much cheaper to dry your own homegrown herbs. It’s easier than you think!
The following dried herbs are great to add to your dust bath:
- Lemon Balm
You could also add some edible weeds to your dirt bath. Here are some edible weeds that chickens love, and some that are toxic.
Once your chicken’s dust bath is complete, mix it all together thoroughly.
We like to keep the dust bath in the chicken run, where the chickens can enjoy it all day long.
If you plan to keep your dust bath outside, do make sure it’s under cover so it won’t get wet.
Your chickens won’t like to use it if it’s muddy and mucky. If you don’t have a roof on your chicken run, you can improvise with a tarp, umbrella, or box to keep the rain out.
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Meredith Skyer is a writer, artist, and homesteader residing in Western New York with her husband and menagerie of farm critters.
She has spent the last 12 years learning and implementing a myriad of homesteading skills, specializing in growing food and animal husbandry. Her biggest passion is working in conjunction with the natural world to harvest healthy, organic food from her own backyard.
Meredith is a freelance writer and founder of Backyard Chicken Project, a place for crazy chicken people to gather, learn, and share in their love of chickens. She also contributes articles to Mother Earth News Online, From Scratch Magazine, and Grit.
Meredith works from her woodland homestead where she spends her days writing, creating animal-inspired art, and chasing after her flock of chickens.
You can visit her at www.backyardchickenproject.com