Nature on our Doorstep - New, The Down the Lane Wildlife Diary
Chickens and Dust Baths
An important natural necessity for your Hens
This article is not only intended to show the importance of Hens being allowed to carry out their natural instincts but also showing how, when they do dust bath, it can bring to light another aspect in so far as pecking feathers. Natural or Bullying?
First, the Video..
The importance for Chickens to dust bath
We can often spend a lot of money ridding Chickens of Mites, but a lot of the ridding can be done by the Chickens themselves in the form of allowing them an area to dust bath.
Obviously if you have only a small Pen to keep your Hens in this may be difficult. Some people will find a large deep tub and stand it somewhere in their Run which, as long as the soil in it is dry, this will work quite efficiently.
If your set up and garden security allows, it's great for the Chickens to find their own spot. You just have to realise that they don't care what may be in the soil such as your prize Flowers!
An ideal place for your hens to have a dust bath, especially in Winter, is your Greenhouse. Given the opportunity this is perfect for them, it's dry and usually, after a good Summer growing season, the soil will be dusty and lose.
This of course is not just about their health, it's about allowing them to be natural. If you have ex-battery hens, it's when you see them dust bathing after only the first day out the cages you realise what Battery Farming takes away from a living creature.
Pecking whilst Dust Bathing
I purposely filmed the above Video to show what often happens when they tend to peck each others feathers out.
There are several reasons / options to look at here and it's hard to decide which of them is the most relevant..
This is a possibility. In my case I have five Chickens all of which were in the Greenhouse when I filmed but only one of them pecked the two who were actively dust bathing. She is not simply trying to take their spot, she pecks then moves on.
Pecking out Mites?
You will notice the 'Culprit' is not taking full feathers, just those which appear to be new feathers. It's quite common for Chickens in Moult to be feather picked by others and one of these two recently came out of Moult. So is she giving them a trim, or she could possibly be clearing any which still have Mites in.
Whatever the reason, should any draw blood you need to separate for a bit. Chickens favour the colour red, they also favour blood, so the combination of the two will only increase injury.
Should you observe this behaviour often, it's a good idea to inspect your Chicken closely for any signs of mites. Another thing to do is take a torch to the Hen House at night, this is when the Mites are active in moving around and sucking blood from your Hens.
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The chances are they're just acting normally and you're simply watching the natural pecking order behaviour. It's a bit like a bossy Mother !!
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