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How to Make a Dust Bath For Your Chickens
Everybody loves a spa day. But for chickens, a dust bath isn’t a luxury or a treat, it’s a necessity. Chickens need to bath in dust regularly for their overall well-being – to clean themselves and stay parasite-free.
Chickens will make their own dust baths by digging bowl-shaped holes in the dirt. They’ll roll around in the holes and kick loose dirt over themselves. To the unsuspecting, seeing a chicken in a dust bath can be kind of alarming. For the rest of us, it’s just entertaining.
Because my chickens don’t have direct access to the ground (their pen is a concrete floor covered with straw and accumulated dirt) they can’t dig holes – although they do sometimes try to bath in a pile of old, dusty straw. So I make dust baths for them. I use a three-gallon plastic pan feeder filled with organic matter. The chickens love it. A line starts to form just as soon as I add new dust bath mix to the “bath tub.”
My chicken pen has two dust baths for five chickens (they share and take turns). I keep the tubs filled by making a big batch of dust bath mix in a repurposed cat litter bucket with a lid. I then store the extra mix in the bucket until I need it.
To help your own chickens meet their important hygienic needs – and give yourself some entertainment – see below for step-by-step instructions for making your chicken dust bath.
How to make a backyard chicken dust bath with a three-gallon plastic pan feeder
Fill a cat litter bucket with lid or other large, lidded bucket about 3/4-full with fine wood shavings. I use America’s Choice Premium Mini Flake All Natural Animal Bedding from Theisen’s.
Add organic potting soil to fill the bucket. I use the leftover soil from last season’s garden containers. Mix the soil into the wood shavings with a trowel.
Then, add 1/2 cup food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) and mix in thoroughly.
A note about DE: I am judicious in my use of DE to avoid causing chicken respiratory problems, which may occur from breathing in too much of any dust. At small amounts blended into a dust bath mix, DE simulates matter occurring naturally in soil and may provide protection against parasites.
Fill a three-gallon plastic pan feeder with the dust bath mix and place in a dry, sheltered location in the chicken pen. Refill as necessary.