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If you’re raising backyard chickens I’m sure you’ve seen them taking a “bath” by rolling about furiously in a shallow pit of dirt.
That’s right, chickens actually get clean by rolling around in the dirt!
It’s actually really clever. When a chicken rolls around in dirt or sand, all the little bits of debris helps to remove excess oil, external parasites like mites and lice and helps maintain their feathers' water resistance.
It’s very important that your chickens have a dedicated space they can use for a bath - just as it is for us!
Depending on the consistency of your soil, they might be doing just fine.
A lot of owners, however, find they need to add some sand or other items into their chicken’s dust bath to make it more effective.
In fact, if you want to keep your chickens’ plumage in tip-top shape and free from mites and lice, I recommend at least adding some diatomaceous earth to their bath.
I’ll explain more about this and the other things I recommend putting into your chicken’s dust bath in this article.
Best Sand for Chickens Dust Bath
As far as what the best sand is for a dust bath, it just has to be any kind of fine children’s play sand.
This one on Amazon would be fine, for example:
Your girls should have already dug out a shallow hole from the soil in your yard. Just add a sprinkling of this sand as a top layer and it’ll make bath time more effective than just rolling in the dirt.
Other Things to Put Into a Chicken's Dust Bath
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
The best thing you can put into a dust bath - and I always recommend people do this - is some food grade diatomaceous earth (D.E.).
If you’re new to D.E., it’s a naturally occurring compound made from fossilized remains that are then ground down into a white powder.
The amazing thing about D.E. is that it’s one of the most powerful and effective products for killing mites, lice, ticks, and all kinds of insects and pests - while not harming larger pets like chickens, cats, dogs, and so on.
I use it on my cat’s bedding, all around the yard, in the chicken coop, and in their dust bath.
It really works. You don’t have to just take my word for it, click the image or link below to see the brand I use on Amazon. There are loads of customer reviews from owners talking about how they use D.E. with various household pets.
Related - How I use D.E. to deal with fire ants and other pests.
Personally, I haven’t used peat moss. I know it's popular among the backyard community though, so it’s worth considering.
Peat moss is a dead fibrous material formed from moss and living materials decomposing. It’s a good consistency for bathing material, and I’m told it’s a good choice in the winter.
When the floor is frozen or covered by snow, a friend of mine sets up a small playbox with peat moss in. His chickens don’t need to be asked twice to get in there and roll around.
Here is an example of the type of peat moss you’ll need on Amazon:
Being able to make a bath and have the right consistency of soil and sand is important to chickens.
If you want to help your chicken’s keep their feathers clean and free of mites, I recommend making sure they’re able to find a good spot in your backyard.
It’s also a good idea to add one or more of the materials I covered above. I know some owners that experiment with dried herbs, ash, and different soils. I recommend at the very least adding some D.E. as it’s so effective at killing parasites.
What Kind of Sand Do You Use for a Chicken Dust Bath?
Any kind of regular play sand is fine. Most soils are fine too, as I explained above. Chickens are very adept at surviving and doing just fine when given space to roam.
If they can find a good spot to create a bath, they will. That said, it’s still a good idea to add some diatomaceous earth or dried herbs to help rid them of lice, ticks, and other parasites.
Can You Use Cat Litter for a Chicken Dust Bath?
I’ve heard the sand and soil in a dust bath referred to as litter before, as well as people asking if you can use cat litter in a dust bath.
The answer is no. You can’t use cat litter, and it’s not really “litter” either. Despite looking like they’re kicking up a mess, don’t forget, this is how they bathe.
How to Provide a Dust Bath in the Winter?
Depending on where you live, the winter months may well mean your ground freezes solid. Or, at the very least your ground becomes too hard for your chickens to make a shallow bath pit with loose soil.
You still have to provide an area for them to bathe, so you really have two options:
- Make a DIY bath in their coop where the temperature doesn’t drop far enough to freeze the ground, or
- Make a dust bath outside of their coop in a box or some other elevated place that isn’t in contact with the ground.
You’ll have to get a little creative. I know some owners who are DIY-savvy that have made boxes and filled them with sand.
You can pick up any box large enough and fill it with soil, sand, and a little D.E. and your chickens should make good use of it.
Image credits - Header image by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash