Chicken Behavior: The Dust Bath

| 8/4/2020 10:32:00 AM

Chicken Dust Bath

To hear the words "dust bath" together seems contradictory, yet this is a very important piece of poultry behavior to help them clean themselves. Exhibited by the chicken rolling and kicking within a dip in the ground, or a provided space for birds that don't get the opportunity to free-range, the act of covering themselves with dirt is actually a method to rid themselves of problem pests.

The Importance

Having an area to take these dust baths is extremely valuable for chickens, in that it is shown to reduce external parasites that commonly plague poultry, such as lice and mites. In warm Summer months, there is the added benefit of providing a chance for the bird to cool down. While it may appear to be a frenzied action as you watch on, this behavior is noted by chicken keepers to signify a happy bird!  As a backyard chicken owner over the years myself, I came to know each flock on a personal level, and studied their actions daily. I noted that they appeared to be in their most relaxed state while dust bathing, showing contentedness as they closed their eyes after a good roll.

The Process

Dust baths begin naturally with the bird approaching a spot of loose soil, scratching the area as if they were foraging. They scratch the dirt out of their chosen spot, creating an oval shaped dip in the ground. Depending on the weather, they tend to select a sunny place for cool days, or a shaded area when it is hot. The chicken will then lower themselves into the hole they've made, taking a position that resembles laying.

Leaning to one side, they will use their leg to kick dirt onto their back. The chicken will then straighten up and puff their feathers, shaking the dirt around in an attempt to cover themselves fully. During this time, a chicken will also rub the side and back of their head in the dirt as well. If the area lacks loose dirt at any point, they will use their beak to pull outside dirt into the hole near their chest.

This process can last for a good deal of time as the bird repeats the process of kicking, rolling, and shaking the dirt on themselves. When they are finished, they may close their eyes and remain relaxed in place, or they may stand up and go about foraging once again.

11/18/2018 9:14:22 PM

is saw dust good to use?

Fala Burnette
11/3/2018 3:28:14 PM

Lisa- Yes they absolutely will! Thanks for making that point. -F.B.

Fala Burnette
11/3/2018 3:27:38 PM

Lisa- Yes, they absolutely will! Thank you for adding this point. -F.B.

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