How to Make a Chicken Dust Bath

So would you like to know how to make a chicken dust bath? Or even why you should provide a chicken dust bath? While, we aren’t chicken newbies anymore we still have a lot to learn about chickens. One of the things we completely missed the boat on was that chickens need to bathe. But they need to do so in dirt! I saw a picture on Pinterest of chickens laying in tires full of dirt. It was kind of an ah-ha moment as I have often observed our chickens digging holes in the run, flinging wood chips all over their selves, and then laying in the sun. Honestly, I just kind of thought my chickens were weird (and a bit lazy) and didn’t realize chickens take dust baths until I started researching it.

Why Do You Need a Chicken Dust Bath

As with everything in life, I had to over research the hows and whys of chicken dust bathing. But hey, Dear Reader, this works out for you. Chickens naturally take dirt and dig loose holes in dry soil. These soil divots are then used to fling the dry dirt all over their bodies. If you watch they will roll, flap their wings, dig, and fling dirt everywhere. Our coop is built on a concrete pad, so while there are lots of wood chips we do not have a lot of soil. I think many chicken owners who build runs with the deep litter method are in the same boat with chickens kicking up a lot of wood chips on a regular basis.How to make a chicken dust bath for your flock

But the dirt is key. A dust bath supplies chickens with a way to clean excess oil from their feathers and remove pests like mites from their feathers and skin. The chicken dust bath consists of them kicking up dirt, rolling, and flapping their wings in an attempt to coat dust all the way down throughout their feathers. The dirt soaks up oil (Picture one of those lovely mud masks ladies wear on their faces) and the grit knocks pests loose. Additionally, dust bathing is a social activity with hens. They do the activity together, often preening and napping as a flock afterward.

How to Make Chicken Dust Bath

Great! You now know why you need a dust bath but what does that look like? Well I can tell you from painful practice that if you do not provide one, the chickens will supply one for themselves. Ours are constantly digging up their run, toppling water, and generally making a huge mess! As a stop gap we are making a small dust bath out of a galvanized tub. Once we are finished with the chicken coop extension we bought an even larger tub so that multiple chickens can use it together. It is quite simple to make one you just need two items:

A Box & Dirt!

But you can make better and more attractive dust baths with a few more options. We found some attractive galvanized containers and worked to make a dust mix. All items we purchased ourselves but the links below may be affiliate in nature.Why you should make a chicken dust bath for your flock

Chicken Dust Bath Supplies

Galvanized Tub
Organic Garden Soil
Diatomaceous Earth (FOOD GRADE ONLY)
For a 5.5 gallon tub I add about 4-5 inches of depth in material. It is almost a 50/50 mix of sand and soil with a cup full of diatomaceous earth. Research shows that many people substitute sand or soil with wood ash. Also the use of diatomaceous earth can be conversational. Often used as an organic pesticide, the product is made of mining deposits of small fossilized sea creatures. It is microscopically sharp and causes insects to die by slicing them up. To humans and chickens it feels like soft talc powder. It can even be eaten (though I am not exactly sold on this idea) and is safe for kids and pets.

Some people worry that it can cause respiratory distress in chickens. I personally weighed the benefits of pest control and decided to add a bit to the bath. I live in a city limits and have to keep the ladies in a run most of the time. Closed up chickens are more likely to contract mites and pests. I try to give my girls lots of space and keep a clean coop to minimize this but I opted for a little additional aid in their bath. If you go with the diatomaceous earth feel free to tell me how we are supposed to be pronouncing it!

edit: Thank you kind readers.  I can now pronounce diatomaceous in the finest of company.

I went ahead and ordered the big bag with the thought that the cost was so much cheaper per pound and I could use this to combat slugs and the godforsaken sugar ants. Let us not get off topic about the ants! Unless I decide I really do want to start eating it or making tons of facial scrub products (yep it is good for that too) I probably have enough for years of dust baths! So the investment will be minimal.

Our New Dust Bath and Future Plans

Why you should make a chicken dust bath for your flock

The new dust bath was a hit with the ladies. Well after they decided the galvanized tub did not signal their impending chicken doom! The pros of putting it in a container is that I can make sure their is a nice clean mix that doesn’t fill the run with mud. Additionally I think it is attractive. The con is that it takes the social aspect of dust bathing away from the chickens as it only fits one or two chickens at a time. Our plan is to add this 15 gallon tub in the extension. We already purchased this bigger version and will add it to the coop when we have the space.

In the future (like next house/farm future) I would love to have free range chickens with fancy dust bathing areas like the versions you see on Pinterest. However, making one in a container is so easy I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner. Of course it would have helped to know they existed :), but now that I know how useful and healthy a chicken dust bath is for my flock I plan to keep them well supplied.

How to make a chicken dust bath for your flock

100 thoughts on “How to Make a Chicken Dust Bath”

    • I will be honest, even after doing a little research I am not sure. From what I can gather agricultural lime is good at inhibiting bacterial growth, do maybe for the coop but not the birds?. I used a bit of the DE for insect control, like mites. I do not think they really serve the same niche. I wouldn’t have any type of good recommendation for lime as it just isn’t a product I have enough familiarity with. Sorry!

  1. Sorry if this is a silly question but does it need to be weather protected? I only ask because I have seen several different types of dust baths and 90 % of them are located in a spot that rain could get to like open spots in the run… Thanks!

    • I have had a dust bath that gets rain. In fact the girls are currently using a raised bed that I just finished pulling garlic from and it rains on it every time. The only importance is to make sure your container has drainage holes if that is going to be the case. Like a flower pot it needs to drain out and dry out for the chickens to really love it.

    • From what I can gather from other chicken owners sand from creeks and beaches can actually be better as it often doesn’t have as many small dust particles that can irritate lungs. If you are worried about pests etc you could bake it in the oven or maybe seal it in plastic and place it in the sun. I do not have easy access to plain sand so I have to buy mine :(

      • You can use DE on your carpets, as well as your gardens. We even put un the thick hair of dog, Also on the grass. Carpet, you have to let it set on the carpet and use a broom to get it in a little more. Set on the carpet for a minimum of 30 minutes. Then vacuum it up and any thing in your carpets will come out, including smells.

  2. DE is pronounced: dye-uh-toe-may-shh-us ?

    We mix a ratio of 10% DE, 40% ash from wood stove and 50% playsand.
    My girls love it and we’ve just added a second tire filled with the mixture to help with the squabbling over who gets to use it! I have 10 girls and sometimes there’s a waiting line for their dust bath.

    I also use the DE (food grade) in with their pellets. I just sprinkle 1 cup in a bag of feed. We have no problems with worms at all.

    • I had two in today and one hanging out on the side just waiting to get in. Even though they make their own dust baths under some wild cherry trees the girls still love this mix the most.

  3. Does anyone know if the ash from the Duraflame firelogs will hurt the chickens? We burn them along with oak logs in our fireplace.

  4. What a wonderfully inforstive site for chook lovers – thank I so much. Had chooks as s child and used wood ash for everything – bathing disinfecting cleaning and gardening / had no money but ash did the job and was free

  5. I bought DE last year at TSC (2016). I leave it on the floor of my 12 X 12 poultry house. It absorbs wet chicken droppings, but be careful not to use too much. It CAN be slick. I sprinkle oyster shells on it. and the birds consume both. I worm my birds one every two years, whether they need it or not!

    • I never had any worm issues. Didn’t that take a LOT of DE? I have heard of mixing it in wood chips or sand. I can’t imagine having enough to cover the entire floor. Maybe you are mixing it with the oyster shells?

      • I worm my ladies every 3-4 months unless their excrement is very liquid and then I worm sooner. I have free range chickens so they aren’t over crowded. When there is a lot of rain, parasites climb to the top of the grass etc and then are consumed by the chickens. I use DE with my chicken feed (I use crumble for worming only and pellets for regular feeding) approx 1 tbs per chicken. Stir it in the feed and your done! The girls are beautiful and happy and…no worms!

  6. I have 6 ladies. I was going to use a shallow plastic tote for the dust bath. Will that work? I don’t have anyway to separate them so they can take separate baths. Now I’m worried about crowding! They have a large coop but no extra run. Do I need to think larger? I’m not wanting to wait for bath time until we get the larger run made.

  7. We have a fairly large mixed flock of biddies (& one rooster). For their dust bath, I use a mixture of DE, wood ash (we have a wood burning stove), and peat moss. The girls just love it. I put it all into a kiddie pool we got from K=Mart. It will hold 6-7 girls at the same time. Although, with 6 girls in the pool, the dust really flies. When the weather get wet, I cover the pool with a tarp to keep it dry.

  8. We have an indoor fireplace but at times use small pieces of cardboard from tissue boxes or food boxes as a fire starter under the wood. Would it still be ok to use the Ashes for the hens dust bath??
    Thank you

  9. We use a baby pool with the same mixture. Put several holes in the bottom so it does not fill up with rain. The girls love it, and they can get three baths at once.

  10. A note on play sand…
    Be sure it doesn’t contain sillicate, chemicals, and synthetic fillers. Many of the sand choices at big box stores are not great for chickens (or kids). I get sand from a rock yard that sells unprocessed river sand. Cheap and safe!

    • I have heard they tend to have really good prices as well. Saw a post about doing an entire chicken run in river sand. I think it would be a little cold for my climate… Anyway, off topic. But very good point.

    • What about using the Quickcrete brand of play sand. Says its washed and no chemicals added. Silica is naturally occurring in sand (it says), so can I use that? my only other option is PetSmart for lizard sand – which I can do, but may be a lot more expensive to fill a kiddie pool with. Bobbi

      • I think it would be fine. It just depends on your level of comfort. I like to be as organic and natural as possible, but sometimes the cost is just not acceptable for the return. I personally use play sand from a big box store, so I can’t see why this would be an issue.

      • I have a bag kicking around from filling the basketball net and last night looked up the spec sheet on quickcrete play and the warnings were kinda scary. I would not us for chickens or in a childrens sandbox after reading. Although not flammable it says it can explode under normal temperature and to wear gloves. Does not sound very playable or chickenable

        • Are you certain you were looking at the spec sheet for play sand? I can’t find a single reference on the wearing gloves and/or exploding…

          I researched the topic after receiving your comment. The main worry with play sand is that quartz dust can be irritating to the lungs and may contain trace amounts of other minerals known to be carcinogens (just as with all rocks). Always remember that many ‘bad’ chemicals like arsenic for example, are natural and just because something has a bad ingredient in it doesn’t mean that human and animal contact with it will result in actual danger.

          Many toxic compounds are found in basic things like rocks. There is an increased chance of exposure to these when they are ground up and breathed in. You can reduce the chances of this happening by washing out the fine particles and/or buying washed and screened play sand or purchasing natural sand. Though natural sand can also include harmful ingredients. Each person has to weigh the consequences and benefits to any choice so I leave that up to you. Except the exploding part. That’s just wrong. Here are the spec sheets lest anyone keep that nonsense going.

    • Great pronunciation! Make sure it is food grade. The diatomaceous earth (DE) you use in your swimming pool is not food grade, but looks very similar. The food grade can be purchased at feed stores and online. Food grade DE is safe to use around pets and farm animals.

      I also sprinkle food grade DE around my bee hives since, small red sweet ants are attracted to the hives. Because DE is crushed fossil remains it has sharp edges fatal to insects with exoskeletons.

      • Yes! Must be food grade. I’ll review the post and make sure that is listed. About the bee hives; Hmm I’d be worried it would blow in the hive, but interesting idea! Has it worked well?

  11. Hi! I am new to all this. We just purchased an acreage that came with a chicken coop and 3 hens. How often do you need to change out their dust bath?


    • I would rake off any droppings every couple of weeks or so. Change it out when it gets low. They will knock dust everywhere! But at least once every two to three months. However, my dust bath was covered and never got wet. If it gets wet I would dump it regularly to make sure no mold or anything was growing in it. Basically whenever it looks dirtier than dirt clean it out. :)

  12. If you use ash make sure it is pure and not ash from a fire started with an excellerant as the chemical residue can harm them, pure ashes! Star in Texas

  13. Thanks for posting this about the bath. We built a sand box for our girls, but didn’t know to add ashes or dirt with the sand. We will definitely fix the recipe that you have given. I’m sure it will make our girls happier, specially adding the diatomaceous. Again thank you

    • First the girls just took dust baths in the back yard-out where the Artimesia grows -A nice dry place . When the heavy rains came I followed the idea of a farmer on line -starting with the dirt then sand and ashes and chunks of char-coal –and peet-moss – It is a covered area but it got wet anyway because the rain was so continuous. (this is near Sacrament, CA. area). So with all that rain I just put ashes and some peet-moss in a galvanized tub that was here -on the back porch- and they used this until the rain let up. Their big bath area (covered from the rain) is being used again and the sand etc. back there is drying out- I put the tub back there too, and will add the ashes in it to the big bath area as soon as this rain cuts back more. I have 8 girls who have the run of the back yard . I learned from Lisa Steel’s Fresh Eggs Daily that the charcoal gives them additional minerals that they need.

  14. Finally!!! I find a place that is current.. Every other site I have been on, is so out dates that I cant aske questions.
    My take on DE is it works great. I use it for a lot of things.. However, I use wood ash in the. Dusting box and sprinkle DE in the nest boxes.. With like a salt shaker..
    My horses were so bothered by biting flies that I’m now trying to find a way to dust their legs with DE to see if this helps them..
    Our dust box is inside our coop but my girls like to dig holes in the outside run too. I currently. Have about 30 chickens, 8 ducks and one goose.. Been on our little farm a little more than a year.

    • An old ceramic sink sound chic! They have play sand at the big box stores. Usually beside the concrete for some reason. It took me forever to find it the first time as I would have assumed it would be outside.

    • Interesting article. It basically says to make sure to use the food grade type (I do and always suggest that) and keep it away from pollinators. Make sure to keep the chickens away from insects populations too. Though the bees seem to buzz the chickens; keeping them away. :)

  15. I have used DE for everything from a chicken dust bath to children’s headlice (worked better than any chemical product ever – very fast and efficient) but I have just recently read that it is very detrimental to the bee population as it gets easily airborne and kills them. This sounds feasible but if anyone has information on this I’d love to hear about it. I have just spent hundreds of dollars on plants specifically for bees and butterflies so this would be a bit of a contradiction! I will refrain from using DE until I’ve researched it more and will use wood ash instead.

    • I have read a lot about diatomaceous earth (DE) and bees. Bees are insects and DE works by cutting exoskeletons. So any time you have DE around bees you run a risk. That being said I haven’t been able to find anything about dust clouds of DE from a couple of table spoons in a chicken dust bath. If I have a plant I need to treat I put it out at dusk and keep it off any type of blossom. They dew keeps it weighed down and keeping it well away from the landing place of pollinators seems to work well. I had a garden full of bees and butterflies. Feel free to make your own conclusions but the small amount located in a coop run is probably less intrusive than the chickens when it comes to insects. I think most insects have way more to worry about from the hens than the DE, but I’m not a person to dust everything in sight.

  16. We use the food grade Diatomeacous Earth in the garden where the girls have dug a hole for their baths, just a sprinkling every couple of weeks ,since its not covered, where they like to kick it up. We also add a quarter cup of food grade DE to a 10lb bag of feed to make the droppings unpleasant to the flies!!! It really works, no more flies in the coop!! To a 10lb bag of feed I add the DE, 2 tbsp garlic powder ( so the biting pests stay away) and 2 tbsp dried oregano. They love it.

    • How awesome! Our bantams have gotten terribly good at catching flies so we have a lot less this year. However and thing that cuts down on the few we have left is welcome. I’ll have to try this mix!

      • I personally do not add it to the food though I know chicken owners who do. There should be an affiliate link above to order it from amazon. That is where I got mine. The bag is a little pricey but it will take me years to use it all.

      • I buy pretty much everything from a feed store, where I get my sand and DE as well as my chicken feed. I ‘m new to raising chickens too, so I count more on the knowledge of the feed store owners to keep me on the straight and narrow and keep my chickens safe as possible! We have a couple feed stores in our area only a few miles from our home. Yes you can add it to their food, but be sure you’re using food grade DE! You can use it in their dirt baths too. Some people even sprinkle DE on the floor of their coop, but I haven’t tried it on the floor yet? Myself I’ve found I prefer to put a thin layer of sand on my coop floor rather then the hay or other grass like materials. Sand easier to clean the chicken poo out of in my opinion and it also dries up the chicken poo too. Especially those nasty smelling runny poo! So adding some DE to my floor sounds like a good idea too! My chicken are also in a coop tractor, so it’s mobile and that also makes it easier to spread the dirty sand on the floor on my property. Tried the hay first, then the sand and it’s much easier to keep clean in my opinion! But I also scoop out the poo at least every couple days and it only takes 10-15 minutes to clean a 12’x12’ coop! Only thing I question that I need to research more is if the DE in the sand will cause any problems when spreading it on my property or not?

        • My guess is it would matter how much DE you are using. I use it around my cabbages to deter cabbage moths. It gets rained off periodically and I re-dust them. I still see plenty of earthworms, etc, in my soil. Though I am super careful to keep DE away from anything bees might land on, as I want to encourage as much beneficial insect life as possible. Long winded way of saying, a light dusting seems to wash away and get blunted in the soil. So unless you are dumping scads of it all around I think you will be good.

          Now a note on the sand. I too LOVE sand for chicken poo. I use sand in my coop and chips in my run. They free range when we are home from work. The sand you are going to want to compost with something before mixing it with clay soils. Otherwise you are going to make a sandy-clay concrete. It seems counter intuitive. Like ‘hey, I’ll add some sand to this clay nightmare for drainage’, but trust me it will set up like rocks. I compost my sandy chicken droppings with wood chips and garden waste and have not had an issue slowly adding that to my garden.

      • It depends on how picky you are. I just make sure that it is marked as safe for use around the garden. Some of the patio/paver sand includes other chemicals to help deter weeds or set after receiving moisture. Just make sure to get something with no additives. I have used untreated patio sand before and the ladies are still walking about doing their chicken thing to no seemingly ill effects.

  17. Another excellent add to the bath is ash. Ash from your fireplace. A good 10-20% added to this recipe would suffice

  18. I am going to use a kids plastic swimming pool for the dust bath container. Several chickens will be able to get in at once and my poultry house is large enough that I can have it inside so that it will stay dry!

  19. I purchased diatomaceous earth for my girls. They seem indifferent to it, but I love how it works on slugs & other pest in my flower beds. It seems to be adding to a more neutral odor since I live in the city. Will continue to use it as grandson that loves chickens reacts adversely to chicken mites. Thanks for your helpful insights.

    • I have used diatomaceous earth mixed with play sand in two rubber or heavy black plastic concrete mixing troughs for three years. The hens love it and dust bath often. I have not had trouble with any lice or mites since they have used it. They also seem to eat a little to kill any worms or parasites. I would not recommend putting the dust in the pretty zinc lined tubs as it seemed to corrode the galvanized barrel I stored the left overs in. I agree the earth keeps down on lots of unwanted pests around the yard, I use it to stop my Catalpa tree from being denuded by Catalpa catapillas

      • Interesting about the zinc. I don’t really mind if it gets corroded over time as we bought it for chickens assuming they would wreck it. But good note for others.

  20. Just came in to check out dirt baths. We are 1 st time owners of 6 chickens for one week. I love the girls, (I call them this) are digging a hole in the dirt and as you said flinging it all around and enjoying it. I will try to buy the Diatomaceous earth which sounds like a great idea for added pest control. Thanks for the information!

  21. Brianna, this is so cool! I am loving all of your chicken posts, someday perhaps I will be able to set up a small coop, I would love to be able to harvest all our own eggs from our own backyard. I had no idea that this is how chickens cleaned themselves, lol, I guess I never thought about it! Great solution, and it looks like the ladies are happy! How fun!

  22. Brianna, my husband takes all the ashes from the fireplace and uses that for the chicken dust bath. Those chickens with their endless demands!! I am hosting a link party tomorrow and would love it if you would drop by. It is called Sweet Inspiration and starts on Friday at 2pm est.

    • I love link parties! Totally will be there. I had read about wood ash as well. Currently we have a gas fireplace :(. We did get a fire pit for free but we haven’t set it up yet. I’ll make sure to save the ashes.

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