Family Farm

Family Farm

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dust Bathing Beauties

Dust Bathing Beauties

Dust baths are a chicken's way of keeping clean.  The fine sand or dust keeps their feathers clean and helps them stay free of mites, lice and other parasites. You can help make bathing easy for your chickens by finding a nice dry spot in the run where there is fine dirt or sand and adding some fireplace ash and food-grade diatomaceous earth.   

Make sure you only use wood fireplace ash, not briquettes or any wood that has had lighter fluid or other chemical coating on it.  Charcoal wood ash contains Vitamin K (a blood clotting agent), calcium and magnesium.  Charcoal absorbs toxins and research suggests that after forest fires, wild animals will consume it for its medicinal properties.  Charcoal is also a laxative and removes impurities, as well as any worms, out of the body. 

Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills mites, lice, fleas, ticks and other parasites. The DE filters through the hard-shelled bodies of fleas, mites, ticks and other parasites. The razor-sharp microscopic silicon particles cut through the protective coating on their shells, causing them to become dehydrated, block their airways and attack their respiratory systems.  (Although DE is non-toxic and harmless to mammals when eaten, it is always best to wear a mask while using it because it can cause lung irritation in humans and chickens if the dust is inhaled.)

Setting up a dust bath area:  

You can fill a wooden or plastic tub with your dirt mixture, create a bathing spot in a corner of the run, or build a cute dust bath gazebo, such as this one.   

I quickly found out that chickens will bathe where THEY want to, not where YOU want them to, and where mine have decided to bathe is under the coop... but the gazebo is still cute and makes a nice pool cabana for the ducks ! 

Your chickens will enjoy bathing and sunning themselves on nice sunny days and you will enjoy watching their antics as they squrim and twist and then shake all the dirt out.  Of course the first time you catch them bathing you might think they are having convulsions or writhing in pain. 

Bathing seems to be a social event and you will often see a few bathing at the same time.

Unless your chickens decide they like where you have chosen for them to bathe, your run will soon look like a mine field with small depressions and craters all over.  Try as I might, I can't get mine to stick with one place to bathe in and I just add DE and ash to one area and they move to a different part of the run.

Dust Baths for Chicks:

It's good to start your chickens off with good hygiene habits at a young age. I fill a small plastic tray with sandy dirt and put it in the brooder box for my new chicks.  Even week-old chicks will hop into the tray and squirm around and flap their wings.  It's healthy for them, keeps them busy and they are adorable to watch.

As the chicks get older, their bath gets bigger....

When they are finally old enough to spend time outdoors, the bath goes outside with them.

Dust bathing seems to be one of my chickens' favorite pastimes.  Encourage yours by creating an environment where they can bathe in comfort.  They will thank you.

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