Dust-bathing is the act of rolling or moving around in dirt to cleanse the skin and feathers of parasites and help thumb|300px|right|Hens dust-bathingthem keep their overall shine. It enables chickens to get rid of build up preen oil, parasites such as mites and lice, dead skin, and other skin irritants. As well as chickens, many other kinds of birds practice this kind of grooming behavior, as well as some mammals.
Chickens will create dust baths themselves, simply by scratching at one particular area of earth until it's loose enough to bathe in, and/or until there is a slight depression in the ground.
Dust-bathing is either a solitary behaviour, with single chickens dust-bathing, or a social behaviour, with a 'communal dust bath' being shared by two or more chickens at a time. Roosters can be seen dust-bathing with hens or other roosters, while hens will dust-bathe with either as well. Broody hens with chicks will often dust-bath with all of their chicks. Because of the pecking order however, higher ranking chickens will often chase lower ranking ones out of bathing spots that they seemingly deem to be better, or will take the available spots if there aren't many.
Chickens seem to not only use it as a grooming function, but genuinely seem to enjoy it as well, and will sometimes spend quite a while laying around in their dust baths.
Chickens seem to prefer bathing in slightly damp dirt, but can also be seen dust-bathing in sand, sawdust, wood shavings, gravely dirt, and even dirt with ashes in it.
In areas where bare soil is not available (e.g. a lawn) or where dust-bathing on the ground is not desired, or simply when dust-bathing is hard, if not impossible for the chickens, such as during winter, a 'dust box' can be made for them. This box can either be made from materials such as wood, or dirt can be placed in a plastic container like a regular cat litter box. Cardboard will not last very long , and Styrofoam should be avoided, as chickens eat it. The box can be filled simply with regular soil (preferably free of large chunks), and sand can be added, as well as wood ashes. Food-grade DE (Diatomaceous earth) is sometimes also added to prevent lice.
Trivia, Tips, & TricksEdit
- Adding chemical louse powder to a dust bath is not recommended, as chickens will breath it in as they roll around in the dirt. It is better to add Diatomaceous Earth instead.