Why Do Chickens Burrow in the Dirt?

Do you ever feel like you’re taking care of a bunch of little feathered archeologists? With all the burrowing and digging, we know it could get a little out of hand.

Why Do Chickens Burrow in the Dirt? They burrow aka take dust baths to help rid themselves of parasites, groom themselves, cool themselves, or are just looking for food.

Let’s take a closer look at the behavior of chickens to find out why they burrow themselves in dirt.

Here’s a video of what it looks like when an adult chicken takes a dirt bath.

Instinct Or Plain Wickedness?

We know at times it feels like your chickens are conspiring against you, digging out the new seedling you were so excited to grow. However, it’s really not out of spite. 

Like dogs howling at the doorbell, and cats scratching at your couch; chickens too burrow in the dirt out of instinct.

Where Does This Urge Stem From?

Now that we understand it’s not just misbehavior, let’s delve more into a chicken’s little brain. Here’re a couple of reasons why your chickens like to dig:

Chicken Scavenger for Food

Whether it’s worms, insects, wild seeds, or roots these all make for a delicious snack. So, it’s basically a daily treasure hunt!

Despite the old belief that chickens can’t smell, they do so pretty well. So if you find your chicken digging at a spot so heartedly it might just be because it can sniff something worth eating.

A Bath Is a Bath, Don’t Judge

Many furry and feathery animals go for dirt baths to stay clean. Chickens are no different.If you’re wondering how it’s done, it’s simply them digging a hole then flailing and wriggling their bodies in it until they are covered in dirt. As paradoxical as it sounds, it works!

The idea is that the dirt layer reaches deep into their skin and so cuts off oxygen to any lice or mites hanging around. It also absorbs any extra oils on the chicken’s skin.This is followed by shaking off the dirt and preening the feathers to be back as composed as ever. 

Dust baths have proven to help chicken relax and socialize too. That’s because they all huddle and enjoy their dust bath together.

Chickens Just Want to Blow Off Steam

We all have to admit that a chicken’s life can be a bit boring. A chicken burrowing in the dirt could simply be one trying to entertain itself. If you’re interested in ways to amuse your chicken, read on to learn more.  

Feathers Can Wear the Chickens Down

Living outdoors and bearing the heat of the sun at noon can be straining. It’s only normal that chickens would dig and find a cold spot in the dirt to chill in. Especially, since they can’t swim well and won’t get in the water to cool down.

Also, if your chicken is laying eggs it could be burrowing to find a safe and cozy spot.

How Is Chicken’s Burrowing Harmful?

Although they don’t intend to, chickens ruin our gardens. They love to poke at the ground with their beaks to catch wiggly worms even when you’ve already fed them many times. Chickens will also rub their beaks on you and other objects to help keep them in shape.

They also enjoy scratching and digging at the ground like there is no tomorrow. 

They don’t care that these seeds were just buried carefully, or that this seedling is starting to grow and sprout. They’ll also be at our vegetables and fruits with no mercy, taking a bite from anything they can get their beaks on.

This all could drive any chicken owner insane. It makes you forget how chickens have a hand in the growth and prosperity of your garden. So, we’ve decided to play the chickens’ advocates and help you make amends with their flaws! 

How to Stop Chicken From Burrowing in Your Garden?

Contrary to the chicken or egg paradox, we have an answer to this dilemma.

To be perfectly clear, any instinctual behavior is nearly impossible to get rid of. Don’t fret it though. We understand the struggle and will help you keep the burrowing at bay!  

The Obvious Solution

Fencing and setting up coups can be the easiest choice. We’re all pro letting our animals wander freely, however, it can sometimes be too much of a hassle. From the poop everywhere to holes and ruined lawns; it makes sense to enforce some restraint.

Provide your chicken with a large coup, chickens love their space so don’t cram them. And fence around any areas you want to keep off-limits. We’d recommend using chicken wire for fencing. You could even enclose your plants with it and let your chicken roam around if you like.

Cover the Ground with Deer Netting

This one is very similar to fencing. It’s used to deter the chickens from stepping on planted areas. You can cover the desired areas with deer netting. We recommend this method, as it’ll make for an unsteady footing for the chickens. That will surely avert their attention elsewhere.

Dust Baths but on Your Terms

Since dust baths are a necessity for chickens, you could provide them with one instead of letting them create their own. 

Whether you’re a fan of DIYs or not, you’ll find that making your chickens’ dust baths is no big deal. And it saves you a lot of trouble!

  1. Get a small kid’s pool or an empty cat’s litter box.
  2. Fill it with fine sand or dirt, the more powder-like the better.
  3. Add Wood Ash or Diatomaceous Earth or Sulfur dust.
  4. You can also add some herbs.
  5. Let them jump in it freely.

Chicken Tractors

Many people find the idea of a portable pen very endearing. It not only allows chickens a change of surrounding and satisfies their urge to wander it also provides them with a constant fresh source of food. 

The idea of the chicken tractor is based on rotational grazing. This continuous movement of the chicken will allow the field to regrow, will help fertilize all your soil without over littering it, and will keep all your land free of pests.

Finally, it will also give you control over the areas the chickens visit.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

This is a harmless trick but quite efficient. Motion activated sprinklers will be both convenient in watering your garden and evading the chickens’ mischief. 

Like most birds, chickens are no fans of water. Once they realize what the sprinklers do, they’d want to steer clear from that area. 

Add Non-Harmful Chemicals 

As we mentioned, chickens’ sense of smell is pretty good. They are, in fact, sensitive to strong spices aroma. This is why some people choose to spray spices on areas they don’t intend to let chicken into.

These spices and herbs include:

  • Paprika
  • Garlic
  • Cinnamon 
  • Citrus
  • Lavender
  • catnip

How to Amuse Your Chickens?

Although this isn’t very widely-known, chickens make great pets! They know their owners and love to play. This is why boredom can be a bit troublesome when it comes to them and your lawn.

A busy chicken is less likely to have destructive tendencies. So, check out these tricks to entertain your girls.

  1. Throw a snack or a treat and let them race to catch it. They can be the most competitive!
  2. Set a hay of straw and watch as they tear it apart one by one
  3. Dangle a cucumber, a cabbage, or even broccoli and enjoy the show
  4. Set some chicken perches, they love to sit and ponder
  5. Place a mirror in their pen and watch as Narcissus’s spirit descends. They adore their reflection! 

Sum Up

In the end, we’ve come to realize that although chickens’ burrowing is part of the package, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It can definitely be controlled in many ways, just find what works best for you. 

You can go about it using chicken tractors or simply installing some chicken wires. Getting the steam out of their systems and giving them dust baths afterward is also a great idea. 

These will surely have your garden safe and intact.