Few chicken activities are as entertaining to humans as the dust bath. To the uninitiated, stumbling upon a dust-bathing chicken can be alarming and is often mistaken for seizure activity or death. Prior to getting my first chickens, I had read about dust baths, so I was prepared for the sight and the first time I witnessed it, I found it hilarious- I still do. A dust bath is the chicken equivalent of a shower- it is both functional and recreational; chickens use dust baths to clean themselves, to relax, and to socialize. The fact that they are entertaining to us is a collateral benefit.

Few chicken activities are as entertaining to humans as the dust bath. To the uninitiated, stumbling upon a dust-bathing chicken can be alarming and is often mistaken for seizure activity or death. Prior to getting my first chickens, I had read about dust baths, so I was prepared for the sight and the first time I witnessed it, I found it hilarious- I still do. A dust bath is the chicken equivalent of a shower- it is both functional and recreational; chickens use dust baths to clean themselves, to relax, and to socialize. The fact that they are entertaining to us is a collateral benefit.

WHAT IS A DUST BATH?

Chickens care for their feathers and skin by digging shallow ditches in soil, mulch, sand, even pine shavings, then tossing it onto themselves. The dirt coats their feathers and settles next to their skin, absorbing excess moisture and oil. It also serves to repel parasites that could set up housekeeping among the feathers, causing skin and feather damage, irritation, weight loss and interfere with egg production and fertility. Dust baths also serve as a recreational activity, a social event and exercise- think of it as chicken yoga! In hot weather, a chicken digs down into the ground to rest in cooler soil to lower its body temperature.

Dig, snuggle into ditch, scoop with beak, toss into feathers, roll, repeat, shake.
Dig, snuggle into ditch, scoop with beak, toss into feathers, roll, repeat, shake.

 

 

 

At the end of a dust bath, the dirt is shaken off and the chicken proceeds to preen and groom its feathers back into place.

Post dust bath shake-out.

Post dust bath shake-out

Synchronized preening.

Synchronized preening

From a very early age, chickens enjoy tossing bedding up into their feathers and settling down into the shallow ditches they have made. Baby chicks appreciate a sand box for this purpose, but will dust-bathe in pine shavings if sand is not made available.

This is a baby quail. Quail enjoy dust baths as much as chickens!

This is a baby quail.

Quail enjoy dust baths as much as chickens!

Mulch beds are a favorite dust bathing location for my chickens.

Mulch beds are a favorite dust bathing location for my chickens

DUST-BATHING AREAS

When I was a new chicken-keeper, my chickens were confined to the run, which consisted of clay-laden earth that was much too dense for an enjoyable dust bath. I had read different suggestions for concocting dust baths that ran the gamut from sand to fireplace ash, road debris, food grade diatomaceous earth and garden powder, but none of those additives are necessary and some are dangerous. Wood ash becomes lye when wet. Road debris often contains salt and petroleum products and food grade diatomaceous earth is a hazard in a variety of ways to chicken health and human health. (read about them here) I recommend plain construction grade sand or clean, dry dirt from the chicken yard. The truth is: dirt or sand perform all of the functions chickens require of a dust bath- there is no need for additives. I use sand on the floor of my chicken runs and for litter in all of my coops and the chickens dust-bathe in all seasons and weather conditions.

Galvanized planter or dust bath hot tub?

 

 

 

ABOUT DIATOMACEOUS EARTH

I am often asked about the utility and safety of food grade, diatomaceous earth (DE) in dust bath areas. Not only is it unnecessary, it is unhealthy for chickens, humans and the environment. For a closer look at the hazards of DE, read these articles: here and here. I do not recommend the use of DE around chickens for any purpose.

My baby Polish Crested chickens, enjoying a nice, mulch dust bath.

My baby Polish Crested chickens, enjoying a nice, mulch dust bath

Winter dust bath in the sand, under the coop. As long as the sand stays dry it will remain loose and good for dust-bathing all year.

Winter dust bath in the sand, under the coop. As long as the sand stays dry it will remain loose and good for dust-bathing all yearChickens that are free to range will select their own areas in which to dust-bathe. Invariably, they will choose the driest, most dusty spot available. By far, mulch and sand are my flock's materials of choice. I long ago resigned myself to the fact that my chickens would scatter my mulch beds and dig up certain plants; that's their natural tendency and that's okay with me.

Thank goodness for that third eyelid!

Kathy Shea Mormino

Affectionately known internationally as The Chicken Chick®, Kathy Shea Mormino shares a fun-loving, informative style to raising backyard chickens. …Read on

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Few chicken activities are as entertaining to humans as the dust bath. To the uninitiated, stumbling upon a dust-bathing chicken can be alarming and is often mistaken for seizure activity or death. Prior to getting my first chickens, I had read about dust baths, so I was prepared for the sight and the first time I witnessed it, I found it hilarious- I still do. A dust bath is the chicken equivalent of a shower- it is both functional and recreational; chickens use dust baths to clean themselves, to relax, and to socialize. The fact that they are entertaining to us is a collateral benefit.

Few chicken activities are as entertaining to humans as the dust bath. To the uninitiated, stumbling upon a dust-bathing chicken can be alarming and is often mistaken for seizure activity or death. Prior to getting my first chickens, I had read about dust baths, so I was prepared for the sight and the first time I witnessed it, I found it hilarious- I still do. A dust bath is the chicken equivalent of a shower- it is both functional and recreational; chickens use dust baths to clean themselves, to relax, and to socialize. The fact that they are entertaining to us is a collateral benefit.

WHAT IS A DUST BATH?

Chickens care for their feathers and skin by digging shallow ditches in soil, mulch, sand, even pine shavings, then tossing it onto themselves. The dirt coats their feathers and settles next to their skin, absorbing excess moisture and oil. It also serves to repel parasites that could set up housekeeping among the feathers, causing skin and feather damage, irritation, weight loss and interfere with egg production and fertility. Dust baths also serve as a recreational activity, a social event and exercise- think of it as chicken yoga! In hot weather, a chicken digs down into the ground to rest in cooler soil to lower its body temperature.

Dig, snuggle into ditch, scoop with beak, toss into feathers, roll, repeat, shake.
Dig, snuggle into ditch, scoop with beak, toss into feathers, roll, repeat, shake.

 

 

 

At the end of a dust bath, the dirt is shaken off and the chicken proceeds to preen and groom its feathers back into place.

Post dust bath shake-out.

Post dust bath shake-out

Synchronized preening.

Synchronized preening

From a very early age, chickens enjoy tossing bedding up into their feathers and settling down into the shallow ditches they have made. Baby chicks appreciate a sand box for this purpose, but will dust-bathe in pine shavings if sand is not made available.

This is a baby quail. Quail enjoy dust baths as much as chickens!

This is a baby quail.

Quail enjoy dust baths as much as chickens!

Mulch beds are a favorite dust bathing location for my chickens.

Mulch beds are a favorite dust bathing location for my chickens

DUST-BATHING AREAS

When I was a new chicken-keeper, my chickens were confined to the run, which consisted of clay-laden earth that was much too dense for an enjoyable dust bath. I had read different suggestions for concocting dust baths that ran the gamut from sand to fireplace ash, road debris, food grade diatomaceous earth and garden powder, but none of those additives are necessary and some are dangerous. Wood ash becomes lye when wet. Road debris often contains salt and petroleum products and food grade diatomaceous earth is a hazard in a variety of ways to chicken health and human health. (read about them here) I recommend plain construction grade sand or clean, dry dirt from the chicken yard. The truth is: dirt or sand perform all of the functions chickens require of a dust bath- there is no need for additives. I use sand on the floor of my chicken runs and for litter in all of my coops and the chickens dust-bathe in all seasons and weather conditions.

Galvanized planter or dust bath hot tub?

 

 

 

ABOUT DIATOMACEOUS EARTH

I am often asked about the utility and safety of food grade, diatomaceous earth (DE) in dust bath areas. Not only is it unnecessary, it is unhealthy for chickens, humans and the environment. For a closer look at the hazards of DE, read these articles: here and here. I do not recommend the use of DE around chickens for any purpose.

My baby Polish Crested chickens, enjoying a nice, mulch dust bath.

My baby Polish Crested chickens, enjoying a nice, mulch dust bath

Winter dust bath in the sand, under the coop. As long as the sand stays dry it will remain loose and good for dust-bathing all year.

Winter dust bath in the sand, under the coop. As long as the sand stays dry it will remain loose and good for dust-bathing all yearChickens that are free to range will select their own areas in which to dust-bathe. Invariably, they will choose the driest, most dusty spot available. By far, mulch and sand are my flock's materials of choice. I long ago resigned myself to the fact that my chickens would scatter my mulch beds and dig up certain plants; that's their natural tendency and that's okay with me.

Thank goodness for that third eyelid!

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Julie lane
Julie lane
4 years ago

I’m so thankful for this article. I took my chicks out to the run for 10 min today. When I brought them back they all laid on the weeds, thrashing around, with their feet spread out. I thought they were dying. I think they were trying to take a dust bath. Lol! I made them one for the brooder. :)

Tan
Tan
4 years ago

You did not say what brand and kind of MULCH to use for my chicken bus-bath that’s safe and best with winter coming?? Help?? Thanks

Jackie
Jackie
5 years ago

Is dusting powder sold in stores safe to be used pure in a bucket for the the hens to use every day

Maureen Binder
Maureen Binder
6 years ago

If you use sand in your coop, is it okay for the chickens to use that sand as a dust bath?
I don’t have a place outside where sand would stay dry. Is there a way or something I could put sand in for use as a dust bath?

DeltaLady1946
DeltaLady1946
2024 years ago

JSW: She really knows what she’s talking about regarding SAND, however, before you run out and buy…make sure it’s chicken safe! Playground sand will literally kill them. Any sand with silica in it is lethal. We go to HD and buy 40 pound bags of ALL PURPOSE sand cuz we couldn’t find construction sand any where! Birds are 1 yr old now and doing great! I remove the wood shavings from their nests in spring and use the safe sand in their nests so it’s cool when they “sit”….also have tons of it in the 1st level of their coop… Read more »