When Do Chickens Start Dust Bathing?

To us, dust and bathing don’t go together. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Yet, to a chicken, dust bathing is their preferred method of cleaning themselves.

Providing your chickens with a fresh and suitable dust bath will help with their overall cleanliness, hygiene, and health.

But, at what age do these fluffy friends actually, need a dust bath?

Whether you’re raising your own chickens or you’re simply curious, here’s when chickens start dust bathing, how often they dust bath, and whether it’s an instinctual or taught behavior.

Why Do Chickens Need Dust Baths?

If you give a chicken a bath it will be clean for a day. If you give a chicken a dust bath it will be clean for a lifetime.

Yes, it’s true chickens do need dust baths, and for good reason too!

This instinctive behavior helps remove excess oils, dust, debris, and dandruff or dander from their bodies. It also keeps their feathers looking nice and fluffy. In addition, having that dust-to-skin contact effectively eliminates parasites, such as mites and lice

Another benefit of dust bathing is that it’s a way to connect with other chickens in their flock, after all, chickens will naturally make friends in the flock

So, chickens don’t need water baths, they need dust baths!

When Do Chickens Start Dust Bathing?

So when does this dust-bathing behavior actually start?

Just as importantly, when should you as a chicken owner provide your chickens with a fully equipped dust bath?

Well, it’s known that chickens will naturally begin to dust bath from as young as 1-2 weeks old. Really, it’s as soon as they are physically strong enough and able.

Of course, a chicken’s first dust bath won’t be as well practiced as at maturity — after all, they’re often not strong enough to flick the sand or dirt all over them just yet.

Still, it’s important to provide your chickens with a dust bath at all ages! Light sand works well, particularly at younger ages.

How Often Do Chickens Take Dust Baths?

Chickens will dust bath whenever they feel the need to. Although it will depend on their conditions, weather, and age, a chicken will normally take a dust bath every 1-2 days.

Chickens may dust bath more frequently, multiple times a day, if they feel the need to. If your chicken is dust bathing multiple times a day, it may be a sign they have mites or lice, as your chicken’s skin may feel irritated.

How Do Chickens Dust Bath

If you’ve owned chickens for some time now you’ll immediately be able to identify when they’re dust bathing. But, for those new chicken owners, here’s exactly how chickens dust bath:

  1. First, the chicken crouches low to the ground, or will even lay down sideways on the dirt or sand.
  2. Next, they flap their wings and wriggle their bodies to loosen the dirt and send it up in the air.
  3. Then, they stretch out their wings to try and catch the dirt.
  4. After that, they wriggle some more to push the dust past the feathers and onto their skin.
  5. Finally, when the bath is over, chickens will preen to keep their feathers looking clean and slick.

You’ll often see your chicken dig a hole and sit in it, in preparation for dust bathing!

Do Chickens Naturally Know How To Dust Bath?

Chickens aren’t known to be the most intelligent creatures, but they’re not stupid either! Since dust bathing is vital for your chicken’s health and hygiene, it’s a behavior they will naturally have an instinct for.

Although baby chicks will be able to learn this behavior from their mother hen, they will also have the innate drive and natural ability to teach themselves too, even if they have imprinted on humans!

It’s not just chickens either, plenty of other bird species will naturally dust bath too!

Dust bathing is observed as both a cleanliness behavior as well a social behavior. As per your chicken’s social hierarchy, or ‘pecking order’, the first to bathe is always the alpha rooster. Then, after he’s done with his bath, the rest take turns, usually going from the oldest to the youngest.

Do Baby Chicks Need Dust Baths?

Since chickens tend to begin dust bathing from as young as one week old, then baby chicks should absolutely be given dust baths!

Ensure your dust bath is also much more shallow than usual. This makes it much easier for chicks to go in and out without getting stuck!

For baby chicks, it’s preferred to use much finer sand mixed with some dry dirt, rather than anything too coarse. It simply makes things easier for your baby chicks.


A dust bath is your chicken’s equivalent of taking a bath or licking themselves clean. They do it instinctively to clean themselves, for overall health and hygiene.

So, when do chickens start dust bathing? It all starts a few days after they hatch!

Chickens also use it as a way to socialize and bond with their flock. I personally love watching my Silkies dust bath, it’s just hilarious. 

In terms of what’s the best sand or dirt to use, well, that’s for another discussion!

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