A place for their chickens to have a dust bath.
I love the comment from one chicken owner in a forum who thought that her chicken was having a seizure the first time she ever saw her hen dust bathing. Its a natural behavioural instinct that all poultry have and they do it for two good reasons.
A dust bath is a way for your hens to keep clean, as ironic as it sounds. The dust movement through their feathers helps them to dislodge any lice, mite and other parasites.
Dust bathing also helps them cool down during the summer as the cool earth rest against their skin to cool the blood and prevents over heating.
If your flock does not get access to a dust bath you may find that they become heavily infested with bugs and display behavioural problems. It really is imperative to their overall health and happiness.
You know how pigs love to wallow and elephants dust spray, so do all poultry. You may find more than one hen dust bathing at a time as its quite a social occasion for them. You may even notice that they peck at the ground around them during their bath, eating up any dislodged bugs. Nothing is wasted!
Chickens start dust bathing as soon as they start to develop feathers as young chicks.
Dusting versus Dust Bathing
Dusting is a little different to dust bathing. Dusting is usually in the form of a commercial powder such as Pestene or food-grade Diotomaceous Earth (DE) which is applied to the area around the vent (backside), under the wings and through the chest area to kill any bug infestations. Lice and mites are the most common and they do need to be regularly treated every season. Be particularly watchful during winter as the bugs are all looking for a warm body to snuggle up to.
Allow your poultry to continue their dust bathing after being dusted. This will ensure that the dead bugs will be removed as well as their eggs. They need to go hand in hand.
How to create a Dust Bath
If your hens are free range they may have already created their special spots for a dust bath by scratching an area of dirt until it becomes a dust. They tend to work at the spot daily until it becomes quite a dusty crater for their 'day spa'. Inevitably they create pot holes that make lawn mowing that little more tricky.
Deep litter is not ideal as a dust bath as they can kick manure through their feathers which may contain infectious materials which can cause the trouble rather than prevent it.
Hens keep their dust baths immaculately clean. They never leave any manure in their bathing area. Smart birds!
Chookies kept in a caged run will need a large tub that can fit up to 3 hens at any one time. Bury the tub into the ground slightly to hold it in place so that it is not easily tipped over if hens sit on the side.
Choose a nice dry spot that gets sun.
There are so many different dust bath 'recipes', but simply filling a tub with some loamy soil or wood ash that will reduce to fine dust is all that they really need.
Do not use potting mix or compost. No clumps or twigs.
Super Delux Day Spa Dust Bath Recipe
There are many things you can add to a dust bath tub that can benefit your flock as a little something special, such as mixing:
- Loamy Soil
- Food-Grade Diotomaceous Earth (DE) - go sparingly as it can be breathed in which may cause irritation.
- Wood Ash
- Commercial Dusting Powder
- Dried Herbs
Wormwood, lavender, mint and rosemary are all natural insecticides. Add them to the dust bathing or nesting areas, where ever bugs are likely to be present. Herbs do not kills the insects but they will help to discourage them from the area.