Despite the dramatic headline, this has nothing to do with dust bathing causing fires. The relationship is all in the re-use. We heat our home with wood and collect the fireplace ash to use in the barn for making dust baths for the birds. The enjoy the ash and combined with a little sand, it is a great way for them to clean themselves and keep the biting pests at bay.
Here you can see Gladys, one of our Buffs enjoying one of the pans we set out for them. There is a line waiting for the bath! It is funny to see chickens line up to take turns, and they seem to do it on a regular basis for baths and nesting boxes, though never for food. When it is dinner time, it is all hands (wings?) on deck at the same time.
After researching breeds of chickens that would fare well in our humid PA summers and cold winters, I settled onto the fluffy butt of the Buff Orpington. This heavy breed is known for a docile personality, however we did not find this to be the case in our young birds. In the early months, they were adorable and the epitome of cute yellow chickeny goodness. However as they progressed to living outdoors, both the pullets and the cockerels had some attitude which included pecking and asserting their dominance towards the humans.
As they grew into their adult size they seemed to definitely become more calm and actually sought out some interaction from us in a very rewarding way. By rewarding I mean they laid us lovely light brown eggs, allowed our daughter to handle them and stopped pecking at us when we entered. It’s possible that chickens are able to communicate about our intentions and they understood that the aggressive cockerel was sent to freezer camp early on and they hoped to avoid this fate.