If you have ever seen your chickens taking a dust bath, it’s a comical site – there they are, rolling around and kicking dirt onto themselves!
Dust baths are helpful for chickens as it helps to rid them of external parasites, mites etc. But if you have free ranging chickens (like we do), and see them performing their dust bath ritual in your garden or flower beds, it becomes less funny very quickly.
You may have seen those depressions in the ground where they have found just the right soil for their bathing fun – and hopefully you didn’t twist an ankle by stepping in it!
Thankfully there are ways to deter them from your yard or prized veggies by providing them with a designated space for their bathing routine.
Today we’ll take a look at a few dust bath container ideas that work great, along with the best ingredients to go in it.
Why Do Chickens Take Dust Baths
I can’t remember the last time I took a bath by rolling around in the dirt…I guess for humans it sort of has the opposite effect . But for our feathered friends, it helps to rid themselves of potentially harmful lice or mites.
And it’s not just chickens do this, nearly all bird species do the same or similar routine. You’ll also see the bison, squirrels, quail and many other critters bathing this way. Wikipedia discusses it in more detail here.
Along with playing in the dirt, you’ll also see them using their beaks to “preen” themselves, or eat any bugs that are clinging on and to rid themselves of feather sheaths. Chickens also have an oil gland near the base of the tail. As they rub their beak against their body, it disperses this oil all through their feathers, which smooths them out and makes them look quite sleek as well!
Basic Dimensions of a Chicken Dust Box
There’s no specified size for chicken dust boxes. But we’ll talk about our experience and research on the topic.
A container that is at least 8 inches tall will work, but taller is better. As you know, they really fling the dirt around when they are bathing so the taller sides will prevent less dirt spillage. Around 12 inches is a good height for preventing this (although some will still inevitably spill out.).
Having said that, many people swear by using containers (like kitty litter boxes) that have sides below 8 inches – just know that with shorter sides will come more spillage.
As for length and width, we’d recommend at least 2 ft by 2 ft (or 60cm x 60cm) as a minimum. These are approximate dimensions but gives you a rough idea. The shape can be square, rectangular, round, oval etc. Basically, it’s needs to be large enough for them to roll and dig in. So really, the bigger the better, especially if you have a larger flock.
If you have a large flock, you may want to make a larger dust bath container or have multiple smaller ones available.
Container Ideas For Chicken Dust Baths
So by now I’m guessing you’re hoping to find some suitable alternatives for your chickens to take dust baths in that don’t involve your garden…thankfully, there are dozens of ideas. We’ll cover a few practical, affordable ways below.
Kiddie Pool – If you have a large flock, this may be a great option. Kiddie pools come in a variety of sizes but the smallest size is 36 inches (around 91cm) , or 3 feet wide. and around 1 foot tall (30cm). Fill it about half full (6 inches, or 15 cm) with dirt, diatomaceous earth, sand or your favorite dust bathing substances. Walmart and similar stores carry a large selection, or you can buy one online as well.
Old Car or Truck Tires – You can take your old tires to the dump, or simply use them as dust bath containers for your flock! You can also find free or cheap used tires at your local tire shops. But call ahead to make sure! Or Craigslist would another option to try – try the “free” section first.
Wood Box – You can easily construct a wood box of any size. Using 2 inch x 8 inch, 2 x 10, or 2 x 12 lumber would work great. By buying or cutting any of these boards into 2 ft lengths (or longer if you want) and then nailing or screwing them together at the ends will make a simple but very effective dust bath container. It’s essentially like a raised flower bed design, so if you have an old flower bed you’re not using or want to buy, that’d be perfect! These can be bought online or at your local big box or garden center.
Kitty Litter Boxes – These can be found anywhere! You can probably use the shallower litter boxes that around 6 inches tall, but the taller ones are around 10 inches tall and would work better with less spillage. There are plenty of places to buy these online.
Wooden Dresser Drawers – You may be able to find a free dresser on Craigsist, or use the one that’s been sitting in storage! As with kitty litter boxes, these can be a bit shallow – you can use it as is, but you may see a fair amount of dirt all around the ground from all their dust bath frolicking. Chances are, you’ll have it placed where that won’t matter. But if you’d like to reduce dirt spillage, adding extensions around the perimeter to make it closer to 12 inches tall would help
Plastic Tote Box – You may have one of these just lying around your garage. Or they can, of course, be purchased online or at big box stores, hardware stores and the like. Look for ones that are over 10 inches tall if possible, to reduce spill.
By now you’re probably getting the idea that ANY container that’s big enough for chickens to dig around in will work great. It does not have to be limited to the ideas above!
Dust Bath Ingredients
You’ll be happy to know that good old fashioned “clean” dirt will work great! Clay is not the best because it be rather clumpy, making it harder for your chickens to dig in. So if you have clay like soil, it would be good to mix some sand in this type of soil to make it more effective.
Otherwise, any type of soil that you can dig up, make porous so they can roll and scratch in it, will work just fine. Some chicken farmers will mix ash from their fireplace in it as well, which the chickens will love! O
Diatomaceous Earth – This is very popular and for good reason as it can kill both gestating and full grown mites. Use it alone or mixed in with dirt (cheaper, and still effective). It’s absorbent and can dehydrate the mites and insects. It can be bought at garden centers, box stores, or online.
Peat Moss – No relation to Randy Moss I’m assuming 😃, Peat Moss is great for chicken dust baths. But look for the kind that does not contain any added chemicals or fertilizers if possible. Again, to make it last longer (and to save some money), you can mix it with dirt.
Wood Ash – I wouldn’t recommend using this on its own as it’s REALLY dusty and it could potentially damage their lungs from breathing it in. But mixed with dirt will make a great blended dust bath combination.
Sand – Another great option that can be used on it’s own or mixed in dirt.
Dirt – Last but not least, DIRT! If you simply dig up some LOOSE dirt from your yard or garden and mulch it up so it’s soft and porous. This is very effective and is by far the cheapest! You can mix any of the above materials into the dirt but it’s not necessary. Dirt alone will also work to smother the mites.
Placement – Dust bath containers can be placed inside your coop. Many people place them in a corer of their coop. Or, if you have an elevated coop, underneath will be great AND will provide protection from rain, snow etc.
But as long as it stays dry, it can be placed anywhere that works for both you and your flock.
Keep it dry – Wet dirt will not work, and your chickens will not use it if it’s more than a little damp. So it’s important to place it in area where it will stay dry. If you live in a wet climate, placing it under some type of shelter will prevent this.
Please feel free to peruse our site for other ideas that may enhance your coop! Our free guide is a great place to start.
We hope you’ve gleaned a few ideas from this article on how to make a dust bath for your flock! It’s pretty darn simple (and cheap) to put together a dust bath container. Not only will it provide a great centralized area for their bath, it will make them happy and stop them from digging in your yard or pasture!
If you’ve used any of the above ideas or have others that have worked well, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear about it. Thanks for stopping by!