How To Make A Chicken Dust Bath

How To Make A Chicken Dust Bath

A dust bath is an important part of chicken hygiene. Bathing in dust reduces mites and other parasites that can afflict chickens. 

According to Dr. Pete Meyers an ornithologist and Senior V.P at the National Audubon Society, the dust act as an abrasive that assist the birds when preening, "For birds, taking a dust bath is much like rubbing your hands with sand to get grit and grime off. The abrasive dust helps the birds remove parasites."*

Although, chickens will naturally find a sunny spot where they can dig themselves a dust bath, that location may not be particularly convenient for you. For example, your chickens may decide to install a dust bath in the middle of your vegetable garden. Alternatively, they might create one near their feeder or waterer. That means dust on, or in, your chicken's feed and water. 

Although owners of the BriteTap chicken waterer don't have to worry about the water itself becoming contaminated because the BriteTap waterer fully shields the water, the exterior of the waterer can get dusty and it makes for an unsightly presentation. Consequently, we recommend building a dust bath in a location that's a distance away from your feeder and waterer, in a convenient spot for both you and your chickens. Don't worry, this project is easy and cheap.

Roadrunner in the dust bath we built for her and the other girls.

Build Your Own Dust Bath

You can make a dust bath out of a cat litter box or many other types of plastic containers. We like Rubbermaid brand Roughneck containers because they are readily available, inexpensive, and come with a plastic cover. The cover is a nice feature because it allows you to cover up the dust bath on rainy days. That way your dust doesn't turn into mud, or worse yet, harden into a substance akin to concrete.  

Roughneck containers come in a variety of sizes, but the best is probably the squat 10 gallon container that measures 24" long x 16" wide and 9" deep.  

  • Whatever container you choose, make sure its large enough for you chickens to bath in comfortably. 
  • Drill a dozen 1/4" holes in various places along the bottom. That way if water does get into your dust bath it has a way to drain into the soil under the container.
  • Then dig a 3 inch deep hole for the your container in the place where you want to place your dust bath and set the container into this hole. The shallow hole will anchor the bin in place and make it easier for your birds to get in and out of the dust bath.
  • Fill with dust.

Dust Recipe

If you are lucky enough to have loamy soil, use this as the primary ingredient for dust bath. If you are like us and have garden soil that's rich in clay, we recommend buying some inexpensive garden soil or top soil at your local garden center.  Then add to this any or all of the below ingredients.  The objective is to make your dust bath as dusty as possible.

  • Garden Soil - As mentioned above, this should be primary ingredient in your dust bath. 
  • Ashes - Ashes from your fireplace or charcoal barbecue grill are extremely fine and make an excellent dust. However, only add fireplace ashes if you burn real wood. Man made fire logs can contain petro-chemicals and other additives that may not be healthy for birds. 
  • Peat Moss
  • Sand
  • Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth - This is a controversial addition to the dust bath. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock formed from fossilized diatoms (algae with hard shells). The rock is ground into a fine powder and sold as a natural pesticide. It is claimed that DE kills insects because it is relatively sharp and punctures an insects hard outer body surface. This causes the insect to dehydrate and die. However, recent research suggests that DE may be less effective against insects when used in the real world than what has been claimed in the past. Additionally, DE is an irritant and humans need to be careful not to breathe DE or get it in your eyes. It goes without saying that, breathing DE is not going to be good for your chickens either, so if you decide to use it, go sparingly - 1/2 cup in your dust bath will be plenty. Also, be sure to get DE that is labeled as "food grade."
Diatomaceous earth viewed under a microscope. Note the razor sharp edges that are claimed to be particularly effective against insects. Photo courtesy the Wikipedia.

BriteTap Chicken Waterer

Posting sponsored by, makers of the BriteTap automatic poultry waterer. The BriteTap waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out.


  1. love your helpful articles and my BRIGHTTAP waterer! thanks much
    dr seely rotigel

    1. Thanks Dr Rotigel that's high praise considering your a veterinarian!

  2. I just received my Brighttap waterer. I appreciate the fast shipping thru USPS! I set it up right away. When I released the girls in the morning I had removed the other waterers and waited to see if the girls would approach the Brighttap. Since it was something new it took awhile. Within an hour, after eating, one by one they started lining up to drink. I guess being thirsty is a powerful motivation to overcome fear. I would say the transition was painless and now I have the confidence that my 6 girls will have clean water throughout the day. No more cleaning water trays. I had to place two before in case they spilled one. Now I only need one, Brighttap!
    Thanks for the innovation!
    Larry Page

    1. Thanks Larry. I'm glad you like your BriteTap Chicken Waterer. Your right about getting the girls to use the BriteTap after eating. We recommend transitioning to the BriteTap waterer in the morning:
      1) Remove the old waterer. 2) Let the chickens out of their coop 3) They'll have breakfast. The feed is dry so they will be thirsty 3) Once one chicken pecks at the BriteTap waterer, the rest will follow suit.

  3. We purchased 3 of these BRIGHTTAP water set ups for chicks and chickens. It is so nice to have clean water without dirty little feet in there. All the chickens learn very fast just how to work them. It is always fun to watch the chicks as they discover new things. It is almost as if they run to tell the others about what they found!

    1. In our opinion, the chicks can be even harder on a traditional waterer than chickens. Chicks always seem to be in the water and they also seem to spill the waterers put into the brooder. The nice thing about the BriteTap chicken waterer is that you can start chickens on it from day 1. The water stays clean and there's less spilled water in the Brooder.


  5. I have sand only can I do dust bath for my chicks? Or can I bath my chicks with water?

  6. I use a mix of play sand and peat moss with a little diatomaceous earth mixed in. They love it. I just got my Brite Tap waterer and they love that too. My husband showed them once how to use it and they caught on really fast. Thanks!


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