Dust Bath Redux

In Chicken husbandry on December 9, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Dec. 9th

I’ve written about the phenomenon known as “dust bathing” before (Chicken Nuggets, June 6th).   Chickens need to take dust baths because it keeps pests and parasites off their feathers and skin.  The way it works is that dust coats their feathers to absorb the stale oil caused by preening.  It also gets into the hard to reach places under feathers to discourage pests from taking up residence.  It even clogs the breathing pores of lice and mites thereby suffocating them.  Plus, dust bathing is just fun and relaxing for chickens.  If you’ve never seen one do it, check out this You Tube video.

The girls have free run to bathe in our vegetable garden, now that the crop is in.  They usually spend a happy hour in the sunshine digging into the dirt and then dusting off.  They’ve also dug spots in our yard and around our trees.  Now that the weather is wet and cold, our yard looks like a war zone and there aren’t any dry spots for them to kick up dust.  My yard has a terrible drainage problem and it holds water for a very long time.  After the recent rains my boots make a squishy noise in the mushy grass and the girls feathers are looking dull and dirty.  So I decided to make them an indoor dust bath to keep in their coop where it will stay clean and dry.  After an internet search for the perfect recipe I came up with a plan that involved a trip to the Feed Lot, Home Depot and Petco (It’s where the pets go!)  You need four ingredients for the perfect chicken dust bath. 

Recipe for a dust bath

The first is sand.  Fine sand is best, so I got a bag of play-sand from the Home Depot.  While I was there, I picked up the second ingredient, garden soil with no fertilizer or pesticides.  Then, I was off to Petco to get the biggest kitty litter box they had.  Finally, I found a farm supply store that had the weirdest ingredient ever–Diatomaceous Earth.  Yep, you heard right.  I didn’t know what it was either.  Tina, I bet you’ve heard of it!  (Tina is my high school friend and farmer extraordinaire).  This stuff is a fine, powder-like substance ground from fossilized diatoms, or prehistoric algae-like water plants.  Though it feels soft and dusty to the human hand, the small particles of DE are razor-sharp and deadly to mites, lice and other parasites that prey on chickens.  It comes in 25 & 50 pound bags, but the feed store just let me measure out 3 pounds for my little project at $2.50/pound.  When I returned home, I went to my fireplace for the final ingredient–wood ashes.  So Jim gets out of cleaning the fireplace this weekend.  Lucky him.  I assembled all my ingredients and poured equal parts into the mega litter box. 

I think I want to redo my bathroom in these colors.

Then I mixed everything up and stuck a chicken in it.  Rosie was unimpressed. 

No sir, I don't like it!

She jumped right out.  I made room for the chicken spa in their coop and stood back to see if anyone would take a dip.  Rowdy thought it looked great, but she had other ideas about its use. 

After watching for ten minutes, I put the shade/wind break against the side so the dust would stay dry in case of rain. 

Hopefully by tomorrow the girls will have the right idea.  I know you could not have lived a full life without this information.  Glad I could help.  Have a DIATOMACEOUS DAY!

  1. Poor Rosie…..she’s like Mikey on the Life cereal commercial…..your test chicken.

  2. She’s always been my strange little girl. She’s also the most fun to hold. Very gentle and calm. I wish you could meet them. They are always happy with Auntie Lynnessa comments on thier site.

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