Why you must provide a dust bath for your girls.
If chooks are let run free they will always find a nice patch of dry soil and dig out a small hollow and immerse themselves in the dust until they are completely coated.
Why do they do this? Firstly, it is their natural way of keeping clean and secondly it helps deter parasites such as mites and lice. It is a necessary part of their everyday health needs.
If your girls are free ranging they will generally find the driest, warmest area they can to create a dust bath in.However this can be an issue when we get extended periods of rain so sometimes it is even necessary to provide an artificial dust bath for free range hens, but it is an absolute necessity if your girls are in a chook tractor or an enclosed run.
How I provide a dust bath.
Find a suitable container. Something large enough to hold enough dust so the chook can almost cover themselves.
I found a rather large plastic dish at the recycle centre a few years back which is just the right size for a chook to bath in. But anything that will hold the dust will do.
Place it somewhere in the run where it will stay dry.
I place my dust bath in a second-hand aviary which I have in the chook run. It is open on three sides so is well ventilated and faces north getting sun most of the day. Both the air movement and the sun help to keep the bath dry- most of our rain comes from the south and west so very little rain get into this pen.
I keep this pen free of deep litter so the dust doesn’t become contaminated with wood shavings (what I use for my deep litter). If you do not have a second enclose then put it in your henhouse but place it up on a few bricks to reduce contamination of deep litter.
What I use in the dust bath.
I find as dry as soil as I can, usually from under a tree beneath the leaf litter, gather about 10 litres (a normal bucket) then I add some wood ash, about a 1:4 ratio. This makes the dust bath alkaline which helps control the parasites. If you do not have access to wood ash try adding a couple of handfuls of lime.
You will find that whilst bathing and throwing dust over themselves the chooks will get the dust everywhere and empty their bath in the process, so be prepared to replace it every month or so.
I tend to replace all the contents of the bath rather than top up as there may be parasites in the used material.
Dust bathing is a wonderful way to help maintain the health and happiness of your flock so why not prepare one today for your girls, they will appreciate it greatly.
Happy productive gardening.