Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wood ash and DE, the dust bathing dream team

Chickens love to dust bathe. They find a dry spot in the dirt and roll, fluff, and flap to their hearts content. Then, if it's a sunny spot they just sorta fall asleep. In fact, if you're new to chickens and you see them all sprawled in one spot looking half dead, you might just think the worst happened. Not to worry, it's just a spa treatment chicken-style. Did you know that what you add to their dust bathing areas can help control parasites? It can! I'll let you in on the 2 secret ingredients and tell you exactly why you (not them) should control where they dust bathe. 

Wood ash, DE, dust bath for chickens

Chickens use dust baths to get their feathers clean. Completely opposite of being a human....or well, almost any other animal! It works for them though. The dirt they fluff up under their feathers helps to absorb excess oil from their skin. They do the vertical wing shake to get the dirt all the way down to their skin. It helps to get rid of any parasites they may have. They also dust bath when it's hot out to cool down. Plus, it just plain feels good!



Unfortunately they just pick a spot based on the dirt and or sun availability. They really don't care that your Petunias are getting uprooted, or that you'll probably trip on the hole later when it's dark. (I call these ankle breakers) Let the chickens pick and they would chose the garden, driveway, the kids sandbox etc. You need to redirect them so they don't poop in your tots sandbox, get run over by something, end up in the woods too close to predators, or just too far from your line of sight. Try to block off their badly chosen spots. Unless you give them an adequate dust bathing spot to use though, they'll probably just make a new one wherever they want. In my post Dust Bath Tubs you'll see one solution to this dilemma. I've seen dust bathing areas made from old kids sandboxes, wooden boxes, an old drawer or even a bag of sand dumped in a sunny spot. You can even just sink a few 2X4s in a sunny corner of the run to form a square. If you build it they will come! It doesn't need to be deep, just a few inches is fine. They won't leave when they hit bottom. Probably won't even notice!

chicken dust bathing


Next you'll need to fill the tub or chosen area. My 2 'secret' ingredients are wood ash and diatomaceous earth. DE is well known to help with parasite control and what easier way to get it onto your chickens then to let them put it on themselves? Wood ash is the second ingredient. It's a light airy material full of vitamins like K, calcium and magnesium. It floats right up in between all those feathers and really gets the job done! The last thing I add is a few handfuls of regular sand. This helps to weigh down the mixture a bit so it doesn't blow everywhere and keeps it from turning into 1 big lump of ash mud after a rain. I like contractor sand....it's cheap and works just as good as the higher priced play sand. 

You're done, you've made the chickens an approved dust bathing area. You may have to chase them away from other spots from time to time, but they'll keep coming back to this one as long as it's kept full. Oh, and don't worry if you see them eating their dust bathing material! DE has been known to help with internal parasites. Charcoal in wood ash absorbs toxins (charcoal can absorb up to 200 times it's own weight! Amazing!) Sand is just grit, and we know chickens need grit to digest. In fact that's exactly why I like the contractor sand so much, it has all different sized pieces of sand...not just fine. Hope your chickens enjoy their new spa treatment area!

~L



Shared at:     

6 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Except for the DE we have all those ingredients in spades. Mine seem to prefer to bath under mom's lilacs, so although they're in no danger etc. it's potentially threatening to mom's bushes lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the best part about woods ash, most people have a ton of it and it's free! Many people don't add the DE. You'll still get great benefits with just sand and wood ash. I've filled the chickens badly chosen dust bathing areas with larger sized rocks to get them to move on to a new area. It usually works, and I just remove them a few weeks later.
      Good luck!

      ~L

      Delete
  2. Interesting. I was under the impression most people like one or the other to add to dust baths: DE or wood ash. I've never heard of mixing both! ...But we're new to chickens, so that's not saying much. :) Ours have decided to dust bathe right next to the rosemary bushes, which I hear is good for parasites. Who says chickens aren't smart? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rosemary....that is smart! Many people just use wood ash because they have it easily accessible in their fireplace or wood burner. You can do both, or just the wood ash. I would still add some sand though, just to give it a little weight and keep it from turning into an ash mud bog when it rains.
      Good luck with your new chickens!

      ~L

      Delete
  3. Great idea~
    Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Use food grade DE only. the other is not safe.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...