by Lori Leigh
Story and photos
It is that time of year when wood ash is easily accessible. If you have access to wood ash from a fire place or wood burning stove, why not put it to work for your chickens.
Natural – All year round, dust bathing is a chicken’s natural way of keeping clean.
Necessary – Dust bathing deters and/or kills parasites, such as fleas, mites, and lice.
It is natural for chickens to create dust bathing areas during the warmer months when the ground is more pliable. During the colder months when the ground is frozen, a little help may be necessary.
You can spread a handful of wood ash on a chicken or you can create a dust bathing area for them to do the work themselves. The ashes can be put into a container or dumped directly on the ground. If possible, try to put the ashes where they will not get wet.
The chickens will spread their wings and roll around in the wood ash, getting it in their feathers and on their skin. If there are any parasites already on the chicken, they will suffocate from the ashes. When done bathing, the chicken will shake off any excess ash and dead parasites. The aroma of the ash will also help to deter parasites.
Wood ash offers calcium and potassium. Adding wood ash to your chicken feed (less than 1% ratio) may help to extend a hen’s laying period and can help reduce the smell of chicken droppings. Even if you don’t mix wood ash with the chicken’s feed, it’s nice to know that if they ingest any while bathing it is safe.
In The Coop And Chicken Yard
Similar to how baking soda works, sprinkling wood ash on the coop floor and in the chicken run can help to neutralize odors.
Make sure that the ashes come from a fireplace, fire pit, or wood burning stove. Do not use ashes from briquettes, burning trash, or wood that had lighter fluid or other chemical coating. These type of ashes can be hazardous to a chicken’s health.