Vet Blog

Why Does My Chicken Roll Around in the Dirt?

December 01, 2021

If you've got backyard chickens, you've probably seen them rolling around in the dirt, kicking their feet, and fluffing their wings and feathers.

At Bayshore Animal Hospital & Avian Practice, we provide expert avian wellness care, and that includes backyard chicken wellness and helping you understand all their funky chicken habits-like their fascinating dust bath ritual!

Why Are Dust Baths Beneficial?

Does your Rhode Island Red relish the opportunity to flop around in the dirt? As counterintuitive as it sounds, she's actually practicing healthy hygiene! When your chicken starts to feel dirty, she will burrow into a patch of loose soil and toss dirt all over herself to get clean.

This process helps rid your chicken of parasites like lice and mites by suffocating those little buggers. Additionally, the dust absorbs excess oil and moisture on your chicken's skin.

Once she feels sufficiently bathed in dirt, she will stand up, give herself a shake to rid herself of loose dirt, and then perform some careful preening before returning to her usual life as a chicken.

Dust baths serve an important purpose when it comes to chicken wellness, which is why you should provide your chickens with an appropriate place to bathe.

DIY Bathing Area for Chickens

When it comes to chicken wellness, giving your chicken a suitable place to bathe is on par with feeding her a healthy diet. Most chickens will find a bathing area on their own if there are patches of bare, loose dirt. But if your backyard chickens are surrounded by lush, green grass, it's time to add "chicken bath" to your weekend DIY projects.

The simplest thing to do is choose a sunny spot and dig up several inches of topsoil to create a patch of loose dirt. But if your soil contains a lot of clay, you'll want to add other materials.

Ideally, the soil for chicken baths should include both fine, powdery dirt (for parasite control) as well as coarser particles so your chickens get a good scratch.

Common materials for chicken baths include:

  • Fine dirt or sand
  • Clean wood ash that is free from lighter fluid or other chemicals
  • Peat moss
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth (a natural insecticide)
  • Fresh or dried herbs for a pleasant smell (and many herbs repel insects)

Create a Container Dirt Bath

Using a container for your backyard dust bath has several advantages:

  • It can be moved when necessary
  • It's easy to change out the soil
  • If you choose a container with a lid, you can keep the dirt dry

Finding a suitable container can be as simple as looking in your basement or garage. Popular options include:

  • Kiddie pools
  • Sand boxes with lids
  • Old tires
  • Large litter boxes
  • Wooden boxes
  • Galvanized tubs
  • Large plastic totes

Your friends at Bayshore Animal Hospital & Avian Practice are here to help your backyard chickens live their best lives! Contact us at (727) 381-3900 if you have questions about your chickens or wish to schedule an appointment.