Dust Bathing with Mabel!
November 2, 2020
A Spa Day with Mabel and the Ladies
When we humans envision a soothing spa day, we probably envision long, hot bubble baths, face masks, and steamy showers. Believe it or not, hens have spa days too, but it looks pretty different from ours. A hen’s version of freshening up involves digging holes and bathing in dirt…luxurious right? Well, Mabel thinks so, and she’s going to show us why dustbathing, aka “spa time”, is one of her most favorite activities.
It’s true – a hen setting up her ideal dust bath is a sight to see. As mentioned in our previous blog post, our lady Mabel will enthusiastically scratch at the ground to hollow out a spot of dirt just big enough to fit her little round body. Once the bowl is formed, she will hop in, wiggle around, and fluff her wings, creating a cloud of dirt – think Pigpen from Charlie Brown!
The dry whirlwind of dirt the hen forms, weirdly enough, gets our gal nice and clean. It keeps her feathers in pristine condition and kills off parasites such as mites, lice, and fleas. Plus, it distributes her abundant natural oils, keeping her skin subtle and well protected.
Hens that are housed, caged, or confined do not have access to dust baths, which means they are at a higher risk for various parasites. This leads to a sick and, or infected hen who then needs to be medicated, and traces of antibiotics could likely end up in her eggs – which no one wants! Allowing space for a natural behavior like dustbathing gives our ladies the ability to naturally rid themselves of any diseases they might contract, and leaves our eggs free from any antibiotics and/or chemicals.
The greatest thing about dustbathing, aka spa time, for our hens, is that it’s a group affair! When one of the ladies begins to dust bathe, others will follow suit in a natural, organized way. This group of spa-goer hens usually spend 15-20 minutes with their eyes half-closed and relaxed, just flapping around in joy!
Although our pastures are filled with acres of green grass, we want to ensure our ladies have room to participate in a much-needed behavior like dustbathing. So, on each of our family farms, we have multiple patches of soil, sand, or dirt so they can enjoy some zen time with their crew.
Who would have thought that a bunch of dirt would make for a cleaner hen! Well, rest assured, at Blue Sky Family Farms we make sure Mabel and all of the ladies are as healthy as can be, from the inside and out!
Follow along with us next week to learn about pasturing with Ginger.