In lousy weather, backyard chickens may find themselves confined to spaces smaller than they ordinarily enjoy leaving them bored, lacking optimal elbow room, and deprived of much needed exercise. Boredom can encourage unwelcome behaviors such as feather picking, and egg-eating, which are tough habits to break, so I like to make small tweaks in my flock’s environment to keep them mentally and physically stimulated without relying too heavily on treats, yes, even healthy treats can negatively impact their health by diluting their diet.
A word of caution: too many environmental changes at once can cause undue stress on chickens who are naturally suspicious of new things, so pace yourself with the number and frequency of boredom-busters. A novel dust bathing area is a simple solution for foul weather entertainment, so let’s make one!
Dust bathing is at least as much a recreational and social activity as it is a way for chickens to maintain their feather and skin condition. While chickens ordinarily dig their own dusting holes, if they’re confined to a hard-packed area, always provide some loose, dry dirt, sand, or peat moss for chickens to dust bathe. They will roll in it, toss it onto their skin and feathers and eventually shake it all off themselves. If you use sand for litter as I do, your chickens will happily dust bathe in it regardless of the weather, but a new dusting location, a different vessel, or novel material will keep things interesting during snowy, wet, or otherwise foul weather.