Chickens do not like to be dirty birds – they love dirt, and hate water. It is just that simple, fellow homesteaders.
If you have ever had to give a chicken a bath – or wash off a chick with the dreaded “pasty butt,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. To keep themselves clean and both rid or prevent mites, chickens NEED dirt baths.
Sure, the label “dirt bath” sounds like an oxymoron, but flopping around in loose soil will make your chickens feel fresh, and clean, and rid them of nasty parasites.
Not only will a dirt bath help the hens with flock hygiene, but the bathing activity is also a social gathering and serves as a superb boredom buster. Bored chickens equal destructive and ill-behaved birds.
Let’s see in the next section how you can keep our chickens happy with DIY dust bath containers you can improvise on your own.
Snag a tire or two from your “junk” stash on the homestead, and use them to make a super-duper quick dust bath. The depth of a typical car, truck, or front tractor tire is perfect for a dust bath.
Using a back tractor or heavy equipment tire will make the dust bath too deep.
When the dust bath mixture hardens during the summer or after drying out from the rain, the mixture may be too heavy for you to easily turn, and break up for the flock.
If the hens or chicks cannot dig into the dirt, they will abandon the dust bath, allowing the parasites to continue to use your meat and egg birds as their hosts.
I often plant sprouts or herbs in the tire dust bath for my chickens to dig up and eat. Because my flock free ranges everyday day, the edibles usually have a little growing time before they are eagerly consumed.
Turn an old wheelbarrow into a portable dirt bath. The chickens will enjoy using the handles as a roost, and like having a high view over the coop run or their outside free-range area.
3. Galvanized Tub
Using a tub that is roughly tire size is yet another great option for an easy and cheap (or free) DIY chicken dust bath.
The tub will rust over time if the dirt bath is placed outside of the coop or is left uncovered in the chicken run.
4. Plastic Tub
A plastic storage tub, even one with a crack in it, can also be rapidly turned into a spacious DIY dust bath for your chicken flock.
5. Wood Crate
Buy or build a wood crate or box with scrap wood to make a dust bath. The bottom of the box will rot over time, as will the wood if it is not pressure treated.
Placing the wood chicken dust bath on top of a piece of tarp, rubber, or plastic will help decrease the rate of rotting.
If you build a frame onto the crate or box it can be covered with clear plastic to protect the mixture from rain and snow, but allow the bathing hens to see out on all sides while ridding themselves of parasites.
Chickens tend to prefer an open or see-through dust bath instead of one with a covered top and sides.
6. Outdoor Brooder
If you want a large dust bath for a big flock and do not want it taking up all the space in your coop run, consider making a combo structure that can serve as both an outdoor brooder when needed as well as a massive dust bath.
7. Plastic Bucket
Turn a bucket sideways to make a dust bath for chicks or chickens.
A square bucket can be placed directly on the ground but a round bucket will need to be sunk just a bit into the ground or it will roll around as the birds bathe in the dirt – they will not like this… at all.
8. Pie Pan
This type of container is the perfect size and depth to accommodate baby chicks who want to take a dust bath.
As you can see by the photo below, the chicks tend to get a bit rowdy and messy when bathing in their dirt mixture.
Expect them to kick and flap out all but the heaviest or stickiest parts of the mixture. I typically have to refill my DIY chick dust bath at least two or three times per week.
9. Tree Stumps or Log Pieces
Arranging removed tree stumps or large pieces of firewood that have not yet been split into a circular shape – or any shape that you choose, and pouring in the mix is yet another free way to make a DIY chicken dust bath.
If you are making a rather large dirt bath to accommodate a sizable flock or a large breed of birds, this will likely be the easiest route to go.
You may want to dig a little hole in the ground to set the pieces or logs to avoid any concern they will fall over on a chicken.
Built a square or rectangular shape bottomless box out of bricks to make a sturdy DIY chicken dust bath that will not rust, bend, or break over time.
11. Cinder Blocks
These large brick-like building materials will not need to be secured into place like the smaller and lighter-weight bricks, yet will provide the same amount of durability and longevity.
12. Half Barrel
Cut a plastic barrel in half, and screw it to some split logs, or scrap pressure-treated lumber to create a free or nearly free chicken dust bath:
Use a drill to make multiple index finger to thumb-sized holes in the bottom and lower sides of the barrel to facilitate better drainage.
Even if the wood or log supports need to be replaced over time, the plastic barrel should last for decades even when exposed to wind, rain, or to intense periods of heat.
13. Metal Ring
Turn an old metal fire ring or scrap metal that can be bent into a circle, square, or rectangle (heck, even a triangle if you want to get fancy) and place it in the chicken coop run to use as a dust bath.
14. Baby Pool
Turn a plastic baby pool into a chicken dirt bath in a matter of seconds.
While not absolutely necessary because of the depth of most plastic kiddie pools, drilling some drainage holes in the bottom and lower sides will help keep the dirt dry enough for the chickens to enjoy.
15. Sand Box
If you children have outgrown their plastic or wood sandbox, or you can pick one up cheaply at a yard sale or local store, these items also make excellent chicken dust baths that multiple hens – even large bird breeds, can enjoy at the same time.
16. Paving Stones
Lay the heavy and flat paving stones in the desired shape and layer them roughly three high, to create a durable chicken dust bath that will last for decades.
If making the dirt bath for chicks or banty hens, you will not need to layer the boredom buster and parasite remover so high.
17. Compost Pile
Make a compost pile in the chicken run or in the flock’s free-ranging area, and accomplish two important tasks at once:
The food tossed into the compost pile will serve as healthy treats – as will the worms and bugs they attract.
The chickens will turn the dirt for you with all of their scratching, pecking, and bathing while adding in plenty of nitrogen from their droppings.
18. Clean Motor Oil Pan
This shallow plastic pan (deep tray, really) is perfect for chicks, young birds, and small breeds of chickens. The plastic is thick and durable, and should last for many years.
19. Cat Litter Box
You can use the litter box without the top, which the hens will love, or keep the top on to prevent the dust bath mixture from ever becoming wet if it is kept uncovered in the chicken coop run.
20. Plastic Dog Box
Like the litter box option noted above, the base of a plastic dog box is comprised of durable plastic that is weather resistant. It too can be used open without the top or with the domed top in place.
21. Bed Pan
This small plastic container is a nice size for just a single hen to use at once. The plastic is thinner than a standard storage tub, but thick enough to last for several years even after drilling some drainage holes into it.
22. Rubber Livestock Tub
These tubs come in deep 5-gallon sizes like the one pictured above, or one to three-gallon more shallow tubs. They are commonly available at livestock supply stores and online.
The thick rubber makes the tubs durable and heavy enough to last for years. Because of the thickness of the rubber, holes can be drilled into the livestock tub without worry over tearing.
Chicken dust baths are an important part of a poultry bird’s daily life. Keeping a dirt pile of loose natural matter or a loose mixture like the recipe noted above in a more confined space, the birds will be able to keep themselves clean and parasite-free, which keeps them healthy.
All of the dust bath ideas in this guide can be made either for free or cheaply, in one hour or less and, in most cases, in mere minutes.
The only tools you will need to make one of the dirt baths for your chicken flock will be a drill to make drainage holes (unless you are building a wood frame).
A circular saw or table saw may be necessary to build the wood frame, along with basic measuring tools, hardware, and the drill already noted or a hammer.
Dust baths are absolutely necessary: they prevent parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens’ feathers and legs.
Now that you know how to make a dust bath container for your flock, you should read next what essential chicken dust bath ingredients you need for a perfect dust bath recipe.
If your chickens aren’t free-range, or if their run area doesn’t have a dry patch of ground where they can dig a hole, you’ll need to provide them with an artificial dust bath.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.