Help, tips and advice by chicken keepers. This time: All about dustbathing

Q. I keep seeing references to chickens dustbathing, but what is this and should my chickens be doing it?

A. Anne Perdeaux says: Garden birds splash in water, but chickens use dusty soil to clean their skin and feathers. It also helps them control parasites, so dustbathing is vitally important to their health and well-being. Given the opportunity, chickens will make dustbaths by using their feet and beaks to dig out a patch of dry earth. They shuffle the loose soil through their feathers, relax, then shuffle a bit more – it’s obviously very enjoyable! Chickens kept in a run may not be able to create a dustbath so one should be provided. A shallow plastic storage box is ideal, and the lid keeps the contents dry overnight. Fill about two-thirds of it with fine, dry soil (mix in some wood ash to make it lighter if necessary). Alternatively, you can use soft ‘play’ sand, but not builders’ sharp sand as this can cause eye problems. Keep the dustbath clean of droppings and feather debris, topping it up occasionally with fresh soil or sand. You could also add diatomaceous earth to help with parasite control. Position the dustbath as far away from feeders and drinkers as possible, then stand back and watch your chickens have fun!

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