Don’t you take a shower or bath EVERY DAY!
A healthy and good smelling hen NEEDS to take a dust bath on a regular basis. Chances are if your bird stinks she does not have access to a dust bath and if she doesn’t have access to a bath, the probability is higher that your flock will carry lice and mites.
For those of you that have watched chickens dust bathing, I think you will agree that it is not only comical, but shows your hens in the utmost state of contentedness.
During the act of dust bathing, chickens will do their best to get as much “dirt” as they can all over their bodies down to the base of their feathers. This in turn actually cleans the chicken (see ingredients below) and will asphyxiate any pests that may potentially prey on them.
If you let your hens free range and DON’T provide a dust bath in the coop/run, I guarantee that they WILL make a dust bath where your favorite plants are growing. If you do not let your hens free range, or they are limited to free ranging because of Winter conditions, than it is essential that they have access to a dust bath. The need is ingrained in their behavior and essential to their personal health. So…… why not build a dust bath in your chicken run?
In order to get started, you will need a container for the dust bath. I only have 3 hens and an old apple crate that is around 12 “deep, 15″ wide and 24″ long works well for this application. If you have a larger flock, you will need a larger container. I’ve seen kiddy pools used for this purpose and they appear to work well.
Next, you are going to need to fill the dust bath with 4 essential ingredients. The 4 ingredients that you will need are:
1) Builder’s sand (don’t waste your money on the more expensive kid’s play sand).
2) Wood ash – I get the ash from my wood stove and take out the larger charcoal pieces with a cat litter scooper.
3) Soil – If you are purchasing soil, make sure it is fertilizer, chemical and vermiculite free.
4) Diatomaceous Earth Make sure it is FOOD -GRADE and not for use in pools. The bag MUST read For LIVESTOCK FEED. See more on Diatomaceous Earth in on following page.
Add equal parts of each ingredient to the mixture and top up when necessary. You will know that your hens are using the dust bath if:
1) You find some of the “bath” contents on the floor of the run.
2) You see them nestled up together in the crate throwing dirt on each other.
3) They are free ranging and suddenly shake from comb to feet and a cloud of dust emerges around your hen.
So……before it gets too cold or your chickens destroy your prized petunias, why not make them a dust bath. They’ll thank you with being vermin free and consistently giving you all the eggs that they are capable of laying.