I’m fortunate that our coop attaches to an outside run which is free of grass, and my first young flock of chickens were able to create their “bath” by scratching up a shallow hole in the corner of the pen.
Now that I allow my hens to free range, they have managed to construct their bathing areas throughout the yard and in my gardens. I’m not particularly fond of finding a hollowed-out area where they deemed fit for a dust bath, but that’s part of the charm (or consequences) of having free-range chickens.
If your chickens don’t have access to the outdoors, or your coop/run area is not suitable for them to make their own dust bath, you can easily assemble one for them. It basically consists of a container filled with soil, compost, fireplace ashes, diatomaceous earth, sand … or a combination of the above. You can either construct a “bath” by using concrete blocks or bricks, or reuse something you already have, such as an old tire, a plastic swimming pool or a storage container. It needs to be in the sun and away from their food and water source. It’s also important to keep their bathing area clean by removing droppings, etc. … and adding more soil as needed.
This fall, my husband reseeded the lawn and declared that the chickens had to stay “cooped up” until the new grass was established. The dirt floor in the run had become so compacted from our summer heat and drought that it was impossible for the girls to “scratch up” a bath. I decided to use some old landscaping bricks and construct a bathing area for the flock.
Actually my decision was twofold; not only is a dust bath essential to the heath of the flock, but recently I’ve been reading about the advantages of Diatomaceous Earth (DE). It’s a natural product consisting of the fossilized remains of diatoms (a type of hard-shelled algae). According to some sites, DE can be used as a treatment and preventative measure against intestinal worms, mites and lice. It’s a safe product that can be added to the chicken’s feed, sprinkled around the coop and included in the dust bath. I haven’t had a problem with mites, worms, etc., but I’m all for avoiding a problem before it starts! I decided on a mixture of an equal amount of DE, peat and sand to add to my constructed bath.
Update: For some reason the chickens were terrified of the brick “bath tub” I created. Maybe the bricks were too unstable or wobbly, but for whatever reason they wouldn’t get inside. Also, even though I covered the tub when it rained, water still managed to get into the soil mixture. The DE turned into a hard cement like texture that took forever to dry out. So … I nixed the cute brick dust bath idea and opted for a simple plastic storage container with a seal-tight lid. I leave it open on the days that they’re caged in the run and close it up if rain’s in the forecast. It’s also easy to dump out and replace the contents if the soil mixture does get wet or soiled. I can also relocate this container easily. I remember last winter when it was so cold that the girls wouldn’t leave the coop, they ended up trying to take a dust bath in their straw bedding. This coming winter they’ll have my not-so-fancy portable tub to bathe in!
Got any unique ideas for creating a dust bath? Comment below or share photos on our Facebook page!
To view what else is happening at our southwest Missouri property, visit the garden-roof coop.