Chickens love to dust bathe and dust bathing is the best way to keep lice and mites at bay. Lately we’ve noticed that our little flock are starting to look a little “ratty” and two have some pretty significant bald spots. Not only does it look very painful, but with the colder weather on it’s way I am concerned about how they will keep themselves warm on those chilly December nights. These two girls are particularly grumpy lately and wouldn’t let me close enough to get a good picture of the feather shafts, but there appears to be a grey “fuzz” towards the base of the feathers, up close to the skin.
Our girls have always created their own little dust baths around the chicken run floor, but it looks like they’re not cutting it any more. With the cooler Fall evenings we’ve had the opportunity to finally enjoy some time out by the fire-pit, creating lot’s of good, clean wood ash – an essential dust bath ingredient! I decided that it was high time we created a proper dust bath for the girls!
It occurred to me that some new chicken keepers may not know about the benefits dust baths, or how to make one, so I put this quick guide together.
Opinions vary wildly on the best substrate to use. The only two things most people agree on are:
1) Wood ash (Clean wood ash from a fire pit. Don’t clear out your grill, or trash burn pile)
It’s important to note a few things:
Firstly, keep in mind that larger grain sand (such as beach sand) may not be as effective as the granules are quite large, and the dust is limited.
Secondly, while Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is considered to be a very effective mice/lice prevention tool, there are also some who feel that it is not good to use around animals. DE is made of fossilized mineral dust with microscopic, razor sharp edges which can be inhaled by your chickens, causing respiratory problems with prolonged use.
I have been using DE in the coop for quite some time now, and have never noticed any issues. Yes, we did have one sick hen a few months ago, but that was due to flooding which caused some respiratory issues in all our chickens – she just never recovered. And besides that, we only started using DE after that flood when we noticed the ground drying up sufficiently for the girls to create new dust bathe pits in the ground.
Our Dust Bath Contents
- Builders Sand (Some people prefer play sand)
- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
- A Sprinkle of Sevin Dust 8%
- Wood Ash
For the box, we used some old workbench table legs made from 1×4 planks. As you can see, we kept the sand level pretty low. We’re planning on adding to that later this week – after the anticipated 4 days of thunderstorms have blown through. And we’ll keep the ash content topped up by clearing out our fire pit every few days.
We are hoping that a deep clean of the coop/run, coupled with this dust bath will bring our girls some relief. It’s awful seeing them in this condition!
I had hoped to end this post with glorious pictures of dust bathing hens doing the L’Oreal-esque slow-motion head shake but unfortunately the girls are wise to my intentions and sit mute and still on the opposite end of the run every time I approach with a camera the cheeky beggars! I will keep trying, and will update as soon as I am successful!
Do you have a dust bath for your chickens? What substrate do you use? How do you feel about Diatomaceous Earth in dust baths? Any mite/lice prevention tips to share?
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