Scrub-a-dub-dub three…chickens in the tub?! You read right. Just like us, our feathered friends also have hygiene standards they like to keep and love to bathe. I’m not talking about the water variety (although you will find some pretty adorable chicken videos enjoying a bubble bath on YouTube!) but rather the dust variety. I know what you’re thinking – “Wouldn’t bathing in dust make them dirtier?”. Yes, but no…you gotta get dirty to get clean.
If you’ve not seen a chicken in the midst of a dust bath, you’re missing out! It’s a very entertaining ritual to watch as they scratch at the dirt, flinging it up on top of their backs and “floofing” their feathers (disclaimer: this is not a real term, or one used in the pro circles of chicken keepers, but it’s a word that best describes the fluffing of their feathers in my honest opinion!) to let the dirt run through their coat and onto their skin, absorbing any excess moisture.
So why do they do it and why is it an important hygiene ritual for them to have access to? Dust bathing is how they not only keep their feathers clean, but it also helps to keep them free of mites, lice and nasty parasites. There are some ways you can increase the effectiveness of deterring such nasties by adding some extras to their bathing site as well. Our four girls would pick a shady spot under a tree to dig a hole and don their bathing suits for the afternoon in their previous larger enclosure, but as we have moved them to a smaller enclosure while we landscape and build their new coop, they’ve not been so lucky. With only a small loose dirt area to scratch around in, we utilised some old steel drums and whipped up some dust baths for them.
You can add other “ingredients” to standard dust and dirt you have laying around to entice them into the bath, but also serve further purpose being natural remedies to assist deterring mites, lice and parasites. Here is our KaMa Klucks Dust Bath recipe.
Firstly, choose an area or something to use as your “bath”. We had some half steel drums that we used to use as nesting boxes. Check out our “Chicken Dust Bath Ideas” board on Pinterest for other ideas here.
- The number one ingredient and what will make up the majority of the bath, sand or dirt. Just your regular dirt you’ve got laying around is fine. The grit and texture will really help to clean those feathers!
- Pouring in second, we add wood ash and some charcoal pieces. The fine dust-like texture of ash works its way through the feathers and settles on the skin, achieving good coverage to help soak up oils and extra moisture, as well as clogging the breathing pores of parasites that may have made their unwelcome way onto your chicken. What you may be surprised to learn is that charcoal wood ash absorbs toxins and can be medicinally beneficial for your girls providing them with a boost of Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin K – keeping a few charcoal bits and pieces in your mix will give them something to peck at while they are enjoying their bath.
It’s important to note here that you need to ensure that you are only using pure wood ash. Ensure it doesn’t contain any other chemicals like lighter fluid, fire starter etc.
- Herbs – natures natural remedy! Adding herbs is a welcome addition to their bathing site providing natural deterrent properties to the likes of mites and lice but you can also add herbs just like you can to their nesting boxes for addition health benefits namely for their respiratory system and as anti-inflammatories. Some options here include lemongrass, wormwood, sage (strong antibacterial properties), lavender, rosemary, thyme and mint.
There are quite a few chicken owners that add food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) also, but due to possible health risks for humans associated, we choose not to use this on our property. Ensure you do your research on proper handling and precautions.
You can mix it all together if you wish, but trust me, the girls will do a pretty good job at it themselves!
Do your girls have a favourite blend? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.