The other day my son came running up to me while the chickens were in the yard. “Steve’s laying an egg and not in the coop where they’re supposed to go!” he said. I had a feeling I knew exactly what he was talking about, only Steve wasn’t laying an egg.
“Is she over by the big pricker bush in the dirt?” I asked. He confirmed that this was the case. “I don’t think she’s laying an egg, but let’s take a look,” I said, and we walked over. Steve was there in the dirt, right where he said she was, but when I said to wait a minute and watch, we saw Steve roll over on her back and then flip a bunch of dirt all over herself. “I don’t think she’s going to lay an egg there,” I told him. “It looks like she’s taking a dirt bath.” I knew this was dicey territory to get into, as my son is forced to take baths when he gets dirty, how come the chickens get to take baths right in the dirt? I explained a little more that the dirt is how they clean themselves, even though people clean themselves by washing off the dirt. It’s a feather thing. He hasn’t tried to take a dirt bath instead of a regular one yet, so maybe I’m over-worrying. And even if he does, his new thing is spraying himself right in the face with the hose, so I think we can get him cleaned up pretty easily. Now, if I could just get him to stand in the garden while he plays the hose-in-the-face game, I could cover a lot of tasks that need doing around here.
Steve really seems to enjoy that one spot by the pricker bush. I think there’s a particularly good patch of sandy dirt there, which must be the hot tub of the dirt bath world. Some people put sand in their chickens runs for bathing purposes, but it doesn’t look like I need to. I’ve caught her over there lazily rolling around and flinging dirt all over the place, but any time I try to get video of it, she immediately stops and acts like nothing’s going on. The minute I turn off the camera, she’s back to rolling and flinging. Apparently chickens get camera-shy, or at the very least, resent my attempts to put them on Facebook. I suppose I wouldn’t want video of me taking a bath on the internet either. Chicken baths are very entertaining to watch though, certainly more so than my own.
I don’t think all of them have a preferred spot, but Steve obviously does, and Boss Chicken does as well. When she’s out of her hutch, and when the hostas are in bloom, she heads right for the biggest one, sits in the shade under it, and digs a nice hole for bathing. She’s got shade, she’s got dirt, and she’s got bugs aplenty. She also gets a little cheesed when I pick her up and put her back in the hutch later, but why wouldn’t she? I’m coming in and putting an end to the dirt party like a buzzkill. I also tend to laugh at how much dirt she gets all over herself, so I guess I’m a double jerk.
Chicken dirt baths are pretty win-win. The chickens get to clean themselves, and it provides plenty of entertainment for anyone around to witness it. If there was a channel on TV that was just footage of dirt baths, I’d probably watch it. The problem comes back to them acting like everything is normal when I come around with the camera. I suppose there must be exhibitionist chickens out there. I’ll have to check some reference books and see if I can find which breeds have more theatrical tendencies, and once I get this chicken bath TV project off the ground, perhaps my first million will roll right in.
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