He lays on one side, flopping in the dirt, with one wing slightly outstretched, flicking one leg rapidly up and down. He rolls over onto his back, kicks and writhes in the dirt.
At first glance, it may seem like something is wrong with this chicken. Is there?
No. He’s just taking a dust bath. This is his normal way of staying clean and fending off parasites like mites and fleas.
He makes a depression in the soil, settles himself down into it, and proceeds to get himself as fully covered with dust as he can. When he’s done, he shakes off the dust and walks away.
The soil that chickens dust with and work between their feathers helps to absorb excess oil and moisture, helps to clean their feathers, and helps to eliminate mites and other external parasites.
Chickens will take dust baths in soil, sand, wood shavings and just about any type of loose material that they can find. Soil and sand seem to be some of the best materials.
Dust bathing is so natural to chickens, they will go through the motions of giving themselves a dust bath even when kept in a cage with no access to the soil.
If your chickens don’t have a place to take a dust bath, you can build a simple wooden box with no lid. To be large enough, it should be about 6 to 12 inches tall, with sides that are about 1 1/2 feet long. Then fill it with soil or sand.
If your chickens begin to have trouble with mites or lice, we recommend using Murray’s Dusting Powder, which is made from 100% food grade diatomaceous earth.