I’ve been meaning to mention this new chicken resource I acquired the last time I was at Powell’s. The book is City Chicks by Patricia Foreman and what I like the most about it is its extensive information about compost and using manure in the garden.
Not all chicken books are created equal and I’ve found that as a chicken owner, not just someone looking for a brief, general overview of chicken husbandry, I need a small collection of books to suit all my needs. Since I recently built myself a three-bin compost system especially for composting all the waste my chickens produce, I needed a resource to help me better understand how to break the manure down and use it safely. I’ve already harvested a batch that has cured and put it in a few of my beds that are resting for the winter. I hope to get even better at closing the waste cycle, keeping it in my little ecosystem, and putting it to work.
This book has also been a great resource for another aspect of chicken life – bath time. Chickens need to take baths, but not with water like us. They bathe in dirt. If my girls were free-range chickies, they’d find themselves a patch of dirt and would dig themselves a shallow hole to dust in. But unfortunately, they’re only out of their run in bouts of supervised free-range time and I don’t have an area where they could dig a dusting hole if they wanted too. So, the solution â€“ build them a dusting box! A dusting box is essentially a shallow box filled with dirt. The birds get in, hunker down into the dirt, roll around in it, and fluff and kick all the sandy dirt and dust into their feathers…and everything else in the vicinity.
That’s Penny, above, in all her bathing glory. The chickens use their dusting box for sunbathing and general enjoyment too. As with most things chickens do, they usually bathe together (unless of course, you’re the low one in the pecking order like Penny and bathe alone or get kicked out when the other two want in). Â Spraying down the dirt in the dusting box, you can also help keep your chickens cool when the temperatures start to rise. You know what Martha would say about it â€“ it’s a good thing.
The original dusting box that Jake built ended up being too shallow, as the chickens would always end up kicking all the dirt out, and shuffle bedding from the run in. So, I got out the trustyÂ ol’ drill, found some lovely scrap boards, cut them to size, and attached them to the outside of the old dusting box. Â Now, the box measures just over 6 1/2 inches tall from the floor to the top edge of the box.
Then, I followed the directions that Patricia gives in her book for creating the perfect dusting box mixture. She recommends making a mix of equal parts organic potting soil, sand, and diatomaceous earth.
I was able to get Diatomaceous Earth (DE)Â from local company,Â Scratch and Peck Feeds. I added that to the mix, in addition to sprinkling it in their nesting boxes, to protect them from getting mites and lice.
I put all of the aforementioned ingredients into a large garbage can, except I only used about half of the bag of DE, and mixed it all together with the shovel as best I could. Stirring together a big amount of dense materials is no easy task, but it’s worth it for the convenience of having dusting box dirt on-hand for future use.
I filled the box up a little more than half way with the dirt mixture and they got right to it. The height is just right too â€“ the dirt stays in and the run litter stays out. A good dusting box is a little detail that will make your chickens very happy!