Why Chickens Take Dust Baths


Any chicken keeper can tell you it's a pretty common sight to see chickens laying or rolling around in the dirt. It's called a "dust bath."

But if you're not used to being around chickens, it might seem sort of strange . . . like the day a friend dropped by and was alarmed, thinking that all of my chickens had died.


Even when it has rained and the ground is kind of muddy, they'll find some dry dirt for their dust bath.


Or, for that matter, they don't care if it's raining.  They'll settle for a mud bath. (Watch the video to see this hen's reaction when it starts raining.)

video


They like (and need) their dust baths in the winter too!  As cold as it is, they have a favorite place under the deck, away from the snow, where the can hug the dirt


.And after their dust bath, they just shake all that dirt off the same way a dog would shake off the water after its bath.


So why do chickens love and need their dust baths?

Chickens love to take dust baths! If it's hot, they look for a shady spot.  When it's chilly, they bask in the sunlight. They dig a shallow hole, loosening up the dirt with their feet, and then they proceed to get themselves absolutely as "dirty clean" as they possibly can, tossing the dirt up over their bodies.  

Dust bathing is an instinct that chickens have, and it is necessary for their health and happiness.  It keeps their feathers clean and dry, removing heavy oil build-ups. It also prevents parasites from finding a home in their feathers, skin and legs.  Fleas, mites, lice and ticks are smothered by the layers of dirt.  The dust bath is followed by a thorough shaking, and then the chickens will preen (groom) their feathers with their beaks. During the preening, they retrieve oil from a gland at the base of the tail and spread it over the feathers.  This instinctive behavior keeps their feathers in good condition for insulation and repelling water.  Dust bathing and preening are also social activities for chickens, and you'll often see them participating together.

Chickens that free-range can find plenty of places to enjoy their dust baths.  If they are caged in a run, however, you should provide them with a dust bath source.  You can use a container such as a litter box or wooden box filled with dirt or sand.  These should be cleaned and refilled regularly.  We built a little sand box in our chickens' run, but they ignore it and dig up the dirt, creating their own bathing holes.

It's fun (and actually soothing) to watch the chickens enjoying their dust baths.  They literally purr like kittens!

For more articles on keeping chickens, visit our Chicken Page.

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8 comments:

  1. Is it okay to use sand for their dust baths?

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    1. Never mind! I see now that you said sand can be used.

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    2. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. Great post! I love the photo of your 'dead' chickens. I laughed out loud at that one.

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    1. Hahah, thanks Lisa! I love watching them flopping around in the dirt. They really do remind me of kittens when they're dust bathing! Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Beautifully written. I loved the video with the chirping in the background.

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    1. Thank you Becky. Aren't they so much fun to watch?

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  4. Great info. I never really knew why mine took a dust bath other than they liked it.
    Thanks.

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