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7 Ingredients For The Perfect Chicken Dust Bath

7 Ingredients For The Perfect Chicken Dust Bath

Chicken dust baths are a necessity for a happy, healthy flock. They are even great for baby chicks in the brooder! But what should you add to your chicken dust bath to create the most amazing dust bath ever? Keep reading to find out!

Why Do Chickens Need A Dust Bath?

Dust baths are how your birds maintian healthy hygene and keep chickens skin and feathers healthy and clean.

Obviously chickens do not take showers and bubble baths like we do, bit instead use dirt to stay clean.

Flopping around in the dirt gets the dirt particles in every nook and cranny of their feathers, knocking mites, lice, and old skin loose.

When Should I Give My Birds A Dust Bath?

Chickens can have a dust bath at any age. I like to add a little bowl with dirt in the brooder so the chicks can practice. Plus, it’s just plain cute to watch.

If your chickens free range, they will likely make their own dust bath holes. Usually in the worst possible place- like a new flower bed!

I add a dust bath to all of my birds runs, whether they can free range or not.

How To Make A Dust Bath

Chickens aren’t too picky. I usually just dig a hole in the run and add a mix of different ingredients.

Winter ground can also be hard for the chickens to dig.

If you don’t have a dirt floor to dig or want something prettier, a galvanized tub makes for an attractive chicken dust bath.

Chicken Dust Bath Recipie

To create a chicken dust bath, start with plain ole dirt. Pick a spot in your yard, and just dig up some dirt!

You can use this plain dirt, but you may want to add to it.

I have clay soil, so I need to make some amendments to keep their dust bath from becoming a dust brick.

Sand

Sand is a great addition to every dust bath and the one ingredient I would say you really should add if nothing else.

The sand serves to exfoliate and really knock loose and parasites and bits of dead skin. It also helps to prevent the dirt in the dust bath from compacting over time.

If you are looking to purchase sand, look for construction sand. It is sold under several names including contractors sand, all purpose sand, and multipurpose sand. Basically, you want a medium-sized grit, something in between beach sand and pea gravel.

Avoid play sand and paver sand. These are composed of very fine, evenly sized particles similar to beach sand and can cause crop impaction in chickens.

Peat Moss

I personally like to add peat moss to my dust bath blend. Since we do have heavy clay soil, this is another ingredient that keeps the bath soft, fluffy, and noncompact.

I also like that peat moss absorbs 20 times its weight in water. While we don’t get a lot of rain here, I know it will keep the dust bath from becoming a swimming pool.

Sulfur Dust

Brimstone for chickens? You betcha.

Sulfur dust makes an excellent addition to a dust bath. Sulfur has been found to not only eliminate mites and lice on chickens after dustbathing but also eliminates mites and lice on chickens that don’t use the dust bath (pest control by proxy). The same study found that the sand and sulfur dust bath eliminated the pests for 2-4 weeks after the dust bath was removed.

Entomology Today discusses a study comparing the effectiveness of sulfur versus permethrin in commercial hens for Northern Fowl Mites. In this study, they hung gauze bags filled with sulfur near food dishes so the chickens would rub up against them. The study found that the sulfur was more effective than the permethrin and nearly eliminated the mites in only one week. The researchers go on to recommends backyard chicken keepers hang these bags of sulfur near food, water, or nest boxes so that chickens will bump into them on occasion.

This was something that I was admittedly unaware of until looking up information for this post. I now have a bag of sulfur on order and will be hanging it in my hen house soon!

Read the sulfur study here.

First Saturday Lime

First Saturday Lime is something that I use around the farm A LOT. It works great to eliminate smell and kill pests in the chicken coop and in the garden. It even got rid of the gross smell in the duck pen!

It is not true “lime” like when you think garden lime, and is completely safe to use with animals and with bare hands.

Because it works well to kill pests, I like to mix it in my chicken dust bath.

If you don’t use First Saturday Lime yet, I highly recommend checking them out!

SAVE 20% OFF YOUR FIRST SATURDAY LIME ORDER WITH CODE HERITAGEACRES

Herbs

Herbs are a nice addition to the dust bath mix, as they not only smell nice but several herbs have pest repelling abilities.

Here are the herbs I recommend:

  • Bay leaves
  • Borage
  • Catnip
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Nasturtium
  • Neem
  • Patchouli
  • Pennyroyal
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow
  • Wormwood

Fireplace Ash & Charcoal

Fireplace ash and charcoal are one that I often see recommended, however it is one that I personally would not use.

Wood ash contains potash, and when mixed with water creates an alkaline solution that can cause severe skin burns.

If you choose to add ash and charcoal, use very little and make sure that it is only from burned wood. Do not add ash from barbeque briquettes, or ash from a fire that used lighter fluid or burned trash.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (or DE) is a hot button for debate. Some articles say that DE kills chickens due to inhaled silica, while others recommend using it.

You should make your own decision on what you feel is best for your flock.

In this University of California study, researchers found a reduction of 80-100% in mites and lice after using a sand and DE mix dust bath.

On the other hand, it was also found that inhaling DE can cause lung irritation, and skin exposure may cause wounds or loss of parts of the skin [source].

Dust bath Ratios

The ratio in which you mix the ingredients to make a chicken dust bath is relatively insignificant.

When I mix dust baths for my flock, I dig a hole in the ground and start with native dirt. Then, I just add a bit of this and some of that, depending on what I have on hand. With my clay soil, my focus is keeping the mix light and prevent it from compacting. The specific rations really don’t matter much, and the chickens don’t seem to complain.

Sources

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l.j.

Monday 27th of September 2021

Hello, concerned about cinnamon in a dust bath. It's capable of burning skin. Cayenne is a bit strong too, and pennyroyal has links to messing up reproduction; wormwood is known to attack the nervous system; borage contains some nasty glycosides with cumulative effect - possibly liver damage.

Do these herbs and spices honestly have to be added?

Christa Buttrill

Saturday 15th of May 2021

Can you mix several of these together?

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