Every animal on this planet keeps itself clean by using its own method. Most of them will use water to help clean their bodies. As for chickens, most people never see them take a bath in the water. Since they don’t use water to clean themselves, how do chickens clean themselves?
So, how do chickens clean themselves? Chickens clean themselves either by bathing in loose soil or sand. This will help remove parasites from their feathers and body. Also, they will preen their feathers to remove dirt and debris, align it back together, and oils to make them waterproof.
How Chickens Clean Themselves by Dust Bathing
The most common way a chicken will clean themselves is by dust bathing. They will either bathe in loose dirt or sand. This will help remove parasites and oil from their feathers.
You may wonder how would dirt or sand help keep them clean. This method is not only used by chickens, but a lot of other birds as well.
Chickens Kicking Dirt onto Themselves
When dust bathing, the chickens will use their legs to kick the dirt onto themselves. Their legs and feet are strong and will move a lot of dirt in one stroke.
As they are kicking the dirt, they will flap their wings. This allows the dirt to get under their feathers for maximum dust coverage.
As the soil gets tossed into the air, it will land on their feathers. The soil will start to absorb moisture from the feathers and dislodge the parasites from their body.
While the chickens are dust bathing, it can look really messy since dirt is flying everywhere. Once the chicken is done dust bathing, they’ll stand up and will shake all the dirt off them.
Best Chicken Dust Baths
If you allow your chickens to free-range, they will instinctively find a suitable location that has soil that is loose. This will allow them to easily bury themselves in the soil and toss the soil over their body.
If you have chickens in an area that doesn’t have loose soil or sand, you’ll need to provide them with one. Just like humans need water to bathe to keep clean, chickens need dirt to clean themselves.
In an area of the yard, you can make a chicken dust bath for them. Remove the grass from the area first. Then you can add the following to the soil to improve the cleaning action:
Diatomaceous earth – This is soil that is super-fine in texture. It’s excellent for parasite removal.
Coarse sand – Add some sand to the soil will help it get the right consistency. Also, the sand helps absorb the moisture from the features.
Ash – Ash is another great material to use. It works similar to diatomaceous earth, which dehydrates and suffocates the parasites that live in the feather and on the skin of the chicken.
Do Chickens Dust Bathe During The Winter?
Chickens do dust bathe in the winter. During the winter, the soil will mostly be wet. This will make it difficult for the chickens to find a dry spot for them to bathe.
If you let the chickens free-range, they will find a spot that’s dry. This will usually be under trees, hedges, or under the porch of a home. As long as it’s dry, the chickens will dust bathe.
If you don’t have somewhere that they can dust bathe, you can create one for them. Find an area of the yard and place a covering over the top of it. This can be anything from cardboard, shingles, or just a couple of woods.
When the sun is out, remove the covering to let the ground become dry. Chickens need to take a dust bath a couple of times a week to keep clean. Otherwise, parasites and pests will start to make their home in the feathers of your chicken.
How Often Do Chickens Dust Bathe?
Chickens will dust bathe depending on the weather. When the weather is hot, the soil will be looser and readily available. During this time, chickens will dust bathe 3 to 4 times a week, sometimes even more.
On the other hand, when the weather is colder, the soil will be damp. Chickens will only dust bathe once or twice per week.
During the day, chickens will typically forage for food. When it gets warmer during the afternoon, they will dust bathe. Chickens will dust bathe in a small group that usually consists of 4 or 5 of them.
In addition, as they are dust bathing, they will also preen their feathers.
How Chickens Preen Their Feathers
Besides dust bathing, chickens keep themselves clean by preening their feathers. Chickens will typically preen several times throughout the day.
A chicken’s preening routine involves the following:
Fluffing up their feathers. By fluffing up their feathers, it helps loosen dirt and debris. This will make it easier for them to pick it out of their feathers.
Picking out dirt and other debris. Chickens will use their beaks to pick debris out of their feathers. They’ll go throughout their entire body looking for debris.
Aligning their feathers. Feathers tend to become separated during preening. After they are done picking debris from the feathers, the chickens will use their beaks to align the feathers.
Oiling their feathers. To keep their feathers clean and healthy, chickens will feather their oils. Also, oiling is a great way to waterproof their feathers. They will use their beak to gather the oil from the preening gland located above their tail. Then they’ll glide their beak along the feathers to oil them.
Chickens are social creatures, and they like to do everything together, which includes preening. When preening their feathers, chickens tend to do it in a small group.
After a day of grazing, they’ll find a quiet and safe place to preen. As they are preening their feathers, if another chicken is close by, they’ll pick debris from them too.
This behavior is often seen between a hen and a rooster when they are close together.
Do Chickens Need To Take a Bath?
Chickens don’t need a bath to keep them clean. Most chickens don’t like water and will not go near one.
Bathing chickens in water is actually not recommended as it could do them more harm than good. Doing so could lead them to become cold. If they do, it could cause them to become ill.
Also, bathing the chickens in water will remove the oils from their feathers. Chickens need oils on their feather to protect them from the environment such as rain and snow.
However, if your chickens are extremely dirty, you can give them a water bath. Before you do, it’s best to try to remove as much dirt as you can from their body first. Then place them in a large container and spray water gently on the area that’s dirty. Try not to soak them with water, though.
Using a paper towel, gently wipe the dirt until the area is completely clean.
Unlike most other animals that use water to clean themselves, chickens use soil and sand. Chickens will take a dust bath several times per week to keep parasites off them and clean their feathers. Since dust bath is important for them to stay clean, always make sure there is an area in the yard for them to do so. This means, even in the winter, you should always have an area somewhere for them to take a dust bath.