This coming June will be 2 years since starting my first flock of chicken(s) here on 25 Acres. Even though there has been a slow down to the number of “firsts” I’m experiencing, it still doesn’t make it any less shocking when weird things happen.
Recently, I started supplementing the chicken dust bathing area with excess ash from the woodstove. Numerous flock keepers use ash to help prevent external parasites such as mites. With no thawed dirt in sight and a wood stove cranking out endless ash, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to use more.
After mixing fresh ash with what was left of the original dust bath medium, I stayed to observe. Initially, my girls tiptoed around the outside of the newly filled ash-laden pit. Slowly they began to pick and pluck at the contents, which I felt was the natural thing to do when faced with something new. Not thinking anything more of it, I went back into the house to get on with my day.
The next morning I proceeded with my chores as usual. Entering the covered pen to fill the feed, I noticed the new ash bath appeared to be well scratched up. This was a sure sign they were using it as intended.
AND SO THE GREAT CHICKEN POOP CAPER BEGAN…
It wasn’t until I went inside the coop that I noticed the dust bath might have been used as a snack buffet. It was NOT what I expected to see: lots of peculiar black poop. Indeed, my chickens were eating the bits of charred wood found in the spent ashes!
Due to my concern, I sat down to Google the cause and effects of chickens eating wood ash. What I found was much more comforting than what I contrived within the confines of my mind.
Wood ash, free of any varnishes or treatments can be a good thing. It helps the birds rid toxins and parasites from their bodies. The ash also naturally enriches the droppings making them great additions to the compost pile.
Per an article here on Community Chickens by Lori Leigh, The Benefits Of Using Wood Ash Around Your Chickens, the ash may even contain calcium and potassium, which are important for my laying hens! And yet another bonus, the added carbon reduces ammonia buildup in degrading fecal matter.
Needless to say, any fears I may have had were put to rest. All of that lovely ebony matter I scraped off my catchment boards would no longer be as frightening.
Moving forward, knowing my birds love to munch on charred wood, I need to limit the ash I supplement. Whether it is used as a food supplement per Lori Leigh’s article or as a dust bath, I don’t want my bird’s diet to be too out of balance. Too much of a good thing can sometimes prove to simply be…too much!