Have you noticed your chickens laying around in a dusty spot, kicking dust all over themselves? Chickens love to roll around in the dirt and dust. It may sounds backwards to ‘bathe’ in dust, but chickens have good reason for rolling around in the dirt. When chickens cover themselves in dust, they are doing so in order to take care of their feathers and skin. Chickens can easily become infested with external parasites like mites, fleas, ticks and other insects.
Most of these insects prefer to hop onto patches of clean skin that they can easily gnaw through to get a meal. Chickens will roll around in dirt and dust to create a protective layer of dust on their skin. Any parasites that were looking for an easy meal on your chickens will have to chew through dust to get to the skin. Most of the time, it’s not worth it to the parasite. They’ll hop off of the chicken to search for another host with hopefully dust-free skin.
Creating a Dust Bath for Your Chickens
Not only is dust bathing a necessary part of chicken hygiene and health, it’s also a social event. When one chicken finds a spot that is ideal for dust bathing, other chickens will join in the fun. You can encourage healthier skin and social interactions by providing your chickens with a custom-made dust bath.
Chickens will make their own dust bath if you don’t provide them with one. They usually accomplish this by scratching up the ground in a low spot in the run of their coop. They’ll use this spot to cover themselves with dust. You can create a dust bath for your chickens that is more effective and helpful than just the dirt in the bottom of your coop.
A good dust bath is made with a combination of a few ingredients. You’ll need wood ash, diatomaceous earth, sand and fine dirt. Mix these up in equal parts to create the perfect dust bath combination.
The wood ash, fine dirt and coarse sand create a mix similar to the dirt that they would scratch up in your yard. Wood ash has been shown to have anti-parasite properties, which will help to keep the bugs off of your chickens.
The diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that helps to keep parasites off of them. Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, microscopic aquatic creatures called diatoms. Their fossilized skeletal remains are sharp and can tear apart the bodies of parasites. Because the fossilized remains are so small, they will harm the parasites on your chickens without hurting your chickens.
If you really want to create a quality dust bath for your chickens, add herbs to the mix. You can add all sorts of herbs to the dust bath. The best herbs to add are ones that have anti-parasite properties. Add lemon grass, lavender, rosemary, mint or citronella. When your chickens roll around in their new dust bath, they’ll keep all of the bugs away.