If you’re trying to help out your chickens by creating a dust bath for them, you might be wondering if you can use cat litter for your chicken’s dust bath.
The answer is, no. You can’t use kitty litter as a dust bathing substance.
There are a number of things you can use to help them out, as I’ll explain in more detail below. But cat litter is not one of them!
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Why You Can't Use Cat Litter for a Chicken Dust Bath
The ingredients and materials used in cat litters vary from brand to brand, but in essence, the main ingredient in most cat litters is clay.
A lot of litters also use silica dust, and almost all litters have some form of chemical fragrances added to help them smell nice. If “nice” is the correct word there!
None of this is good for chickens to be breathing in. Plus, as I’m sure you know, chickens tend to peck and eat everything - and you don’t want them ingesting cat litter.
Most cat litters are associated with causing respiratory issues in cats, too. A lot of owners are turning to more natural solutions, such as litters made with sawdust, pine, wheat, and plant products.
So, it’s certainly not a good idea to use cat litter as a layer for a dust bath. Especially when there are so many better options that will not break the bank!
What Should You Use for a Dust Bath for Chickens?
There are a few substances I recommend but by far the best thing to add to a dust bath is food grade diatomaceous earth.
If you’re new to diatomaceous earth (D.E.), it’s basically a white powder made from fossilized remains of diatoms, which are little hard-shelled organisms.
D.E. is one of the least known miracle products on the market. It’s found in all kinds of products we use daily, such as toothpaste and polishes, and is used to treat conditions like constipation and high cholesterol.
Back on the topic of dust baths, D.E. is one of the most effective naturally occurring products for killing mites, ticks, and parasites.
It does this by both drying out any insects that come into contact with it and damaging their fragile exoskeletons as it’s very sharp and abrasive.
With a similar consistency to sand and powerful parasite cleansing properties, I recommend picking up a bag. You’ll end up using it in their bath, coop, bedding, and anywhere else you think parasites might be hiding out.
Here is the brand I use on Amazon:
Children’s Play Sand
That’s right, one of the best substances you can add to a dust bath is regular kid’s play sand.
The consistency is perfect for chickens. They will roll around and get all the fine sand into their feathers, which is how they remove dirt and debris.
It makes for a perfect top layer on a bed of loose soil. Your chickens will make the bathing area themselves if they have space, you just need to add some sand on top.
Here is the kind of sand I use on Amazon:
I’m a huge fan of herbs in general. I feed them to my chickens for their medicinal and wellness benefits, eat them myself, and grow a few in my own little herb garden.
They also make for great material for their dust baths too.
Pick a herb with strong antioxidant and insect repelling properties, such as lemon balm or lavender. This’ll help your flock keep their plumage parasite-free while keeping them smelling fresh too!
Related - Read why I feed lavender to my chickens here.
If you want to add soil to their bath then peat moss is the best type of soil to use.
It’s made from organic materials and has some benefits such as killing parasites and helping your chicks clean their feathers.
I know a lot of backyard chickens owners use peat moss in the winter when the ground is hard. Or if they’re using a box for their chicken’s bath rather than a hole in the floor as it’s easier to fill a pot or box with peat than the other materials.
Here is the kind of peat moss you’ll need on Amazon:
Being able to make a dust bath with the right consistency of soil, sand, and other materials is important to chickens.
It’s how they keep clean and keep parasites and lice to a minimum.
In a lot of cases, your chickens will make a bathing area that does the job just fine if they find loose soil and have space.
It doesn’t hurt to help them out though. Especially by adding some D.E. as it’s such an effective substance at killing parasites.
Can I Use Chinchilla Dust for My Chickens?
If you’ve owned chinchillas you will know that they also take dust baths to keep their coats clean.
Chinchillas have very different coats to chickens though. They have some of the softest, most dense fur of any animal. It’s actually quite the feel, I recommend giving one a stroke if you never have.
Anyhow, chinchilla dust is very different from what chickens want. It’s typically made from fine aluminum silicate powder or volcanic mountain pumice. I don’t recommend using it for your chicken’s bath.
When Can I Give My Chickens a Dust Bath?
Baby chicks will start rolling around getting a feel for bathing their feathers when they’re as young as just a few days old.
If you have chicks, you can set aside a little box, even using a kitten’s litter box, with some of the sand and other materials I covered in this article and see if they take to it.
Do I Have to Make a Dust Bath for My Chickens?
The general rule of thumb is that it's good practice to at least try and give your flock a dedicated space to make a dust bath.
Obviously, chickens are very capable of making their own bath given the space and the right kind of soil. It’s often not possible when keeping them within a coop and run though, so a little help goes a long way.
Image credits - Header photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash, chinchilla photo by Amber Wood-Hurst from Pixabay
What is cat litter made of - WorldsBestCatLitter.com