Wood Ash Perfect for Wintertime Chicken Dusting

Hubby brought home big bucket wood fire ashes today from a friend’s house for our well love and well spoiled chickens. They have been unable to dust for a few weeks because we had to close off their dusting area under their coop because they were scraping away at the wood with their beaks and eating it. This was the one area that stayed dry enough to be dusty but I was afraid of wood chip in their throats  – a potential problem.Wood ash close

Gene brought home a buckets worth of wood ash today.

According to This Old House, a cord of wood can produce up to 50 pounds of ash and a number of chicken blogs claim that wood ash is death on mites. Just what we need so thought we’d give it a try.Ash in the dist

Fresh but cooled ashes spread out in the chicken dusting area.

When we built our covered chicken run early this winter, we added a small **sand box** in a shady corner for dust bathing and filled it with sand. Unfortunately we were late in the season to start such a project and by the time we got the temporary tarp on the roof trusses the snow had filled the sand box and the floor of the run. That meant frozen snow and frozen wet sand in the box all winter long. Not your ideal situation for chicken dusting!

Ash in sand box

We also added ashes to the chicken sandbox duster. More next week.

We have a traditional house fireplace but it tends to smoke up the house badly and with my husband’s allergies we do not use it all that often. I was hoping there might be some ashes left over but when I checked on it yesterday it was clean as a whistle. But our friend has an outside wood burner and he burns wood 24/7 so always has plenty of ashes to share. A quick phone call and stop on the way home from work and we have all the ashes we want.

Removing plastic and lathe

Removing the plastic and lathe that closed the dusting area off.

With the temperature warming up this week to the 40’s and 50’s, we were able to shovel the snow out of the bathing area and add the repurposed wood ash.  I dumped a bucket of ash into the sand, and stirred it around to mix it up a little bit but taking care to leave most of the ashes on top for the chickens get the idea this is their new bathing area.

Chickens don’t bath in water like we do. In fact, they get clean by getting dirty. They scratch up a pile of dirt. They lie down on their side, move their legs like they are swimming, peck up some more dirt throwing it around and using their wing force it in their feathers. And it is a very entertaining process to watch.

They dust to keep mites and lice in check while cleaning their feathers to some extent. And sometimes they get really “dirty” doing it.

Dusting is also a social activity for chickens and they all want to do it at once and the closer to each other the better. They pile on top of one another, fighting and squawking for the best spot, pecking and eating the critters that fly out from under their feathers (like a kind of social grooming process) and spending at least 30 minutes or more most days on this goofy but important behavior.

Heading in the dust

Heading into the dusting area and taste testing the new ashes.

Bringing home wood ash is a simple and inexpensive way to help the girls stay happy and healthy….a chicken family that dusts together stays healthy together right?

The girls were in wood ash heaven once again!

Small House chicken keeper, Donna

3 thoughts on “Wood Ash Perfect for Wintertime Chicken Dusting

  1. Pingback: Wood Ash Perfect for Wintertime Chicken Dusting | Small House Under a Big Sky

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