Chickens dustbathe to keep their feathers clean.
Chickens dustbathe mainly to clean their feathers. Yes, dust sounds dirty, but it is the way chickens keep themselves clean. Birds that don’t have access to a dust bath can get mites–dustbathing helps to prevent your chicken from getting infested.
Even if you supply your chickens with a nice sandy dust bath, they’ll prefer to dig their own. Our chickens dug one several feet deep under a tree. The dirt there stays dry all year because the tree keeps off the rain. Also, chickens prefer a dry dirt dust bath to one made of sand. They generally want their dust bath under the cover of a tree or roof–it makes them feel safer.
Chickens dustbathe by sitting down in a patch of dirt, digging a hole, and then rolling around in it while ruffling their feathers. They like to dust bathe for a long time–sometimes for over an hour! Mother hens teach their chicks to dustbathe when they are extremely young. Dustbathing is an important part of a chicken’s life.