Dust baths are important for maintaining a healthy, happy flock. But what do you do when the ground is frozen or covered in snow? Make an all-weather dust bath for your chickens!
We live in a part of the Western US that experiences cold winters but rarely gets a lot of snow. Last year, though, we had a particularly snowy and very cold year. In fact, we got the most snow our area has seen in almost 30 years and it all happened pretty quickly and unexpectedly! We had to make a lot of fast adjustments to keep our chickens happy and healthy in the unusual weather.
Two months before the snow came, our chickens had an unfortunate case of mites during molting season which made for a couple of difficult months! We were able to act quickly and eradicate the mites, but preventing further outbreaks was a high priority. One thing that can help reduce mites and maintain healthy feathers is a proper dust bath. With the ground covered in a couple of feet of snow, there was no way for our chickens to access their regular dust bath area. I also knew that once the snow melted, the ground would still be frozen solid until the spring thaw and then it would likely turn into a muddy, soggy mess.
With a couple of basic supplies that we had lying around, I was able to make an all-weather dust bath for my chickens! Because the dust bath is stored in a plastic tub with a lid, I was able to easily pick it up and move it to the barn to store it so that it didn’t freeze. I would bring it out during the day and let the chickens play in it for several hours. Once the temps warmed up a bit, I left the dust bath outside for the chickens and would cover it with the lid overnight and during any rainstorms. The soil stayed dry and ready for the chickens to use!
We have gotten so much use out of this dust bath that it has become a permanent feature in the chicken yard! I bring it out every winter once the ground freezes and the wet weather comes. During the rainy Fall and Spring, I have even placed the dust bath in the covered chicken run to provide a nice dry dust bath option. In the summer, I place it under the shade of a large tree where it has become a favorite spot for our chickens to keep cool.
How to make an all-weather dust bath:
To make your own all-weather dust bath, you will need a large plastic storage tub with a tight-fitting lid. I prefer a tub that has lower sides as I’ve found the chickens are more willing to climb in and out of it. Fill the dust bath with a mix of natural dirt and sand. You can use soil from your property or, if your ground is frozen, you can purchase a bag of all-natural soil from your local hardware store or nursery.
The soil and sand will create the base for your dust bath, but you can add other items to your dust bath! Many people choose to add a small scoop of food-grade diatomaceous earth or wood ash and charcoal from the fireplace. These can be helpful in preventing parasites but should be used in small amounts since they contain small particles that can irritate a chicken’s respiratory tract if inhaled. I also love to add fresh and dried herbs to our dust baths! The strong scent of herbs may help repel parasites and rodents. Some of my favorite herbs to add to a dust bath are rosemary, mint, lavender, and oregano.
An all-weather dust bath can do wonders for your flock! If you live in an area that is experiencing a particularly cold winter or if you want to add a new enrichment activity to your chicken run, this dust bath can help keep your chickens healthy this winter!