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Why Your Chicks Want Access to a Dust Bath Too

Most chicken owners know that their full grown hens and roosters should have access to a dust bath.  Usually, if they have enough space to roam outside, chickens will find their own favorite spots to bathe in the dirt (annoyingly, ours picked right in the front yard by one of our big spruce trees--they are lucky I love them).

But did you know that chicks need dust baths too? 

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Chicks need dust bath just as much as full grown chickens.

Just like their bigger moms and dads, chicks have that instinct to bathe.  If you have raised chicks before, you may have noticed them lying on their sides, flinging bedding under their fuzzy little wings.  Some chicks will even try using their food crumbles as a dust bath.  Why do they do this?

Dust baths play an important role in chicken health by:

  • Dislodging excess oil and dirt from skin and feathers.
  • Removing excess moisture.
  • Discouraging external parasites, such as fleas and mites.
  • Keeping chickens cool in hot conditions.
  • Keeping down odors.
  • Providing an enjoyable and relaxing social activity to keep chickens busy.

Keep your chicks healthy and content by providing them with a dust bath.  If they are being raised by a mother hen, she will likely teach them how to bathe, so be sure to have a spot available to them.  Right now, we have a hen who surprised us with 11 chicks (she had a hidden nest somewhere).  We allow her to free range during the day, and I was able to capture a little footage of her with all 11 of her chicks taking a bath together:

If you are raising your chicks indoors, perhaps in a cardboard box or other such enclosure, put in a little bath for them.  Since they are small, it doesn't have to be very large, but allow room to fit a couple chicks at a time, since bathing is generally a highly social activity.  You can probably find a plastic container in your recycling bin to serve your purpose.  There are several options when it comes to bathing materials, but some of the more commonly used are:

  • Sand (highly recommended)
  • Fine soil (highly recommended)
  • Wood ash (use with caution)
  • Diatomaceous earth (not recommended unless there are extreme circumstances)

Personally, sand or soil (or a mixture of the two) is what I would use.  You really can't go wrong either.  They are natural substances that chickens would find and use themselves in the wild.  They are also inexpensive and easy to obtain.  Chances are, you'll only need to go outside to find some.

Wood ash is great for keeping away parasites, but you need to be careful when using it.  Be sure it comes from pure wood ash--no charcoal or ashes from treated wood, which would be unhealthy for your chicks; also, you need to be watchful that it doesn't get wet, since wet wood ash can become caustic.  If I were to use wood ash, I'd mix in a small amount with the sand and soil.

As for diatomaceous earth (DE), really it should only be used rarely.  DE contains tiny, jagged particles that can cause lung damage if inhaled frequently; not good for you or your chickies.  It is probably okay to use once in a while (during a bad mite infestation, for example) but should not be used routinely.  I doubt that chicks kept indoors will have problems with mites, so I'd recommend just leaving it out.

Once you have your bath made, you can place it in your chicks' enclosure, preferably as far away from the food and water as you can, since they have a tendency to fling the bathing materials about (as you can see in the video above).  Just to warn you, there is probably nothing cuter than watching a fuzzy little chick flop around in a dust bath.  Prepare to have your heart melted.  <3 :="" p="">


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