An essential part of chicken health is being able to take a dust bath. ‘Bathing’ in the dirt helps them control pests that might be hanging out on them. Think of it as a natural insecticide.
If your flock is free ranging, they’ll find places to create a dust bath all on their own. A nice patch of loose dirt will do (yes, they WILL use your garden if they have access to it). They’re especially fond of sunny patches of loose dirt.
Once they find (or create) a place to bathe, they’ll burrow in, roll over, fluff their feathers up and do all sorts of strange moves. They work at getting all that dirt up into their feathers and onto their skin where pests might be lurking (the dust will suffocate the bugs).
A nice dust bath is often a group activity, with many hens squeezing into the perfect location. It seems, often, to have a hypnotic affect on them. It’s common for them to swagger when they get up out of the bath like a drunken sailor.
While dust bathing is crucial to your flock’s health, sometimes a place to have one is hard to find (this is especially true if your flock doesn’t free range, or it’s winter and the ground is covered with snow, or if you live in a ‘rain belt’ like me and the winter and spring are a soggy muddy mess with no ‘dry, loose dirt’ to be found.) Luckily, if you have less than ideal conditions, it’s easy to create a space for your flock to bathe in.
What You Need to Make a Dust Bath:
One relatively dry place that the chickens have access to
Dry, clean, loose dirt (free from dirt clots and debris) or fine sand, or a combination (I use both)
A way to contain the dirt (I use the top of an old broken wheelbarrow that I took apart. I’ve seen them made in old tires, etc)
Wood ash (from fireplace or wood stove) is a great addition. The ash is full of beneficial ingredients like vitamin K, magnesium and calcium. It also absorbs toxins.
Diatomaceous earth (use food-grade only) kills pests (see more about DE here and how to use it with chickens) in small amounts. (It can cause irritation to the lungs so some don’t like to use it in the dust bath area. I do include it, but just in tiny amounts and I mix it in really well with the rest of the dirt mixture).
Stir it all together and wa LA! You’ve got yourself a dust bath solution for your flock. They will love you for it.