Why Chickens Dust Bathe

Above: Tweetie, A silver Laced Wyandotte taking a ‘dust’ bath in some shavings. I do not think that shavings are very effective… At least she liked to dust bathe in real dust on a frequent basis.

Chickens love to dust bathe and will do it pretty much whenever they find a good patch of dust. Dust baths are also absolutely essential for a chicken’s proper hygiene maintenance… But why? You’d think that rolling around in the dust would make you… well… dirtier. However, for chickens, taking a dust bath actually cleans them! Here’s how it works…

Chickens & Parasites

Chickens are living parasite magnets. Their dense, water-resistant plumage (that is kept warm by the bird’s body) is the perfect environment for mites, lice, fleas and even ticks. These parasites can by devastating on a chicken’s health… while also being very uncomfortable.

These external parasites not only deplete the bird’s body of necessary vitamins and minerals but can cause stress and even disease. They are also immensely irritating. In enough numbers, they can even cause chickens to pull out their own feathers out for the sake of relief… This is where dust bathing comes in…

How Taking Dust Bathing Helps

Most ‘dirt’ is comprised of fine particles of rocks, fossils and decomposed plant and animal materials. The result of the combination of these substances is epic on the extermination of external parasites. Not only is it very abrasive on the bodies of external parasites, but it coats their abdomens with a dusty residue. This makes it difficult for those nasty little bugs to breath.

So, in short, the whole process of rolling in and kicking up dust/dirt rids chickens of external parasites. The presence of dust residues on the surface of the chicken’s skin/feathers also acts as a temporary deterrent. Another way that chickens keep external parasites at bay is by preening.

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