How do chickens keep themselves clean?

A dirty white leghorn

It is perfectly normal for chickens to clean themselves by bathing in dust and preening their feathers with their beaks.

Chickens are self cleaning and unless they get very wet and muddy you do not need to interfere.

If you prefer clean chickens get dark coloured ones!, black doesn't show nearly as much dirt as white.

What do clean chickens look like?

Its not uncommon for a chickens feathers to be a little dirty as they spend their whole lives outside.

Below: This chickens feathers are in pristine condition, although she has slightly dirty feet!

Chickens get dirty from their environment and cockerels treading on them. Mud is the big enemy when it comes to clean chickens.

You can help keep your chickens clean by:

  • Providing them with plenty of dry spaces.
  • Cover their run,
  • Make sure water drains away from the coop and run,
  • Providing a nice deep dust bath full of dry sand.
  • Having dry wood shavings on the coop floor to absorb moisture,
  • Making sure the coop is well ventilated,
  • Free ranging them on grass.

How do chickens clean themselves?

Chickens don’t wash themselves in water like humans do so you might be wondering how chickens clean and wash. 

It is easier for chickens to keep themselves clean as they do not sweat through their skin.

Chickens clean themselves by dust bathing and preening. The dust bath helps remove parasites and preening spreads special oils over the feathers from the preen gland on the tail.

Below: Here is one of my leghorns cleaning her feathers and skin in a dust bath.



Preening also zips the feathers back together renewing the protection they provide.

Dust bathing and preening are critical chicken behaviours that are crucial for their long term health and well-being. 

Below: Chickens have a habit of standing around near the coop and it becomes muddy very easily.

Chickens preen when their crops are full and if you live somewhere where the days are very short in winter they may not have enough time to do everything they want in the winter months.

Can you wash chickens?

You can wash chickens but in my experience most chickens do not like water and trying to wash them will cause panic. Washing with soap also removes the natural oils from the feathers removing the protection from water. 

Chickens are often washed before poultry shows and do get used to it, especially if the water is warm and they are given time.

Chickens clean themselves every day and if they go for more than a few days without being able to it can cause stress and frustration in the flock. 

Dust bathing is a communal activity that involves many birds.

Why do chickens clean themselves?

Chickens have to keep their feathers clean and in otherwise they might get cold, ill and even die from exposure.

Dust helps remove parasites from the skin and chickens have a pre-programmed routine of rolling and rubbing in their bath to get the dust into all the feathers.