When the baby chicks were little, I could not believe the amount of dust that they generated. I had no idea why and initially chalked it up to the brooder’s bedding. However, I noticed that as they grew in size so did the dust. I was still using the same amount of pine shavings in the brooder for bedding, so why more dust? It surely could not be solely from the pine shavings and I was right. It was from the chickens themselves. The majority of the dust was coming from them.
There are a 4 things that contribute to dusty chickens. I have listed them in the order of their dust making ability from worst to least.
#1 Dander: Chickens themselves make the most dust. Anything with feathers or hair really can make it. So what is dander? Dander is simply microscopic flakes of dried dead shed skin. Knowing that, it’s no surprise at how much dust a chicken can make, especially given how rapidly baby chicks grow and how quickly their skin cells are turning over. At about 3 weeks of age, the chick dust becomes noticeable and by 6 weeks the amount of dust can be a bit surprising. This is usually when the bedding is wrongly blamed. It is also about the time when the baby chicks are ready to transition outside. So, the cause of the dust can easily become confusing to some.
#2 Chicken Feed: Chicken feed can be dusty especially if you are feeding crumbles or chick feed.
#3 Poop: Dry chicken poop can be dusty.
The shafts of straw make perfect hiding spots for poultry mites and lice.
#4 Bedding: Kiln dried pine shavings sometimes get a bad rap. This is where the quality of the pine shavings comes in. You may have to test a few different companies (mills) to determine the quality of their shavings. Chose shavings that are larger in size that are not accompanied by a lot of saw dust. This is huge. It took me 3 mills to finally discover one that I liked. Other chicken bedding can also be dusty as it dries and decomposes. These include pine needles, straw and hay. On a side note, one reason why I do not like to use straw in the bedding is because poultry pests such as mites and lice can easily hide in the open shafts of the straw. Also, chickens are sometimes tempted to eat the straw or hay and it can get tangled up in their crops. Lastly, straw takes forever to compost. It does not breakdown quickly like pine shavings do. What about sand? That can be dusty too. It is fine to use outside in the run but inside the coop, wet or damp sand without sunlight and a good breeze can take forever to dry out. Moisture and humidity inside the coop can be hazardous to your flocks’ health.
Ways to Help Keep Chicken Dust Down
-Keep the chick brooder in the garage. Clean it regularly.
-Have a place for chickens to dust bathe outside and preen. This helps them to shed that dander.
-The bedding choice is up to you, there are pros and cons to all of them. The amount of dust they add to the overall situation negligible compared to the chickens themselves, feed and their droppings.
-Scoop up the poop daily. If the droppings don’t dry out they can’t contribute to the dust. This also helps to keep the coop dry and free from droppings that can spread illness.
-Try switching to a pellet feed or moving the feeders outside.
–Clean your coop regularly. Dusting the coop with a broom or dust pan is only spreading the dust and putting it into the air. You are getting some but also redistributing it. Once it settles from the air your coop will be dusting again. My secret weapon, a small $25 shop vac. I take it out once a month and vacuum up all the dust and cobwebs. It works amazingly and takes just minutes. I also wipe things down with a damp cloth and coop cleaner once a season.