Why do Chickens Dig Holes?

Chickens are amusing birds. If you watch your flock, you likely observe that these birds are pretty interesting. One of the things that chickens do, which never stops baffling chicken owners, is why their birds dig holes.

Many reasons make chickens dig holes, with the main reason these birds dig holes is because of instinctual behavior.

5 Reasons Chickens Dig Holes

Chickens will keep digging holes whenever they get an opportunity to do so. There are many reasons your birds could be digging holes all over your lawn. Let’s dig into five main reasons why chickens dig holes.

– Dust Bathing

One of the several reasons chickens dig holes is to take a dust bath. Although dust baths aren’t refreshing to humans, chickens aren’t fans of water because water makes them wet. Instead, these birds prefer to bathe in dusty conditions.

While chickens may look dirtier after taking dust baths, that isn’t the case. Dust baths are pretty essential for chickens. As your chickens roll in the dirt helps, these birds rid themselves of nasty parasites like fleas, mites, and lice.

Besides helping your chickens keep these parasites at bay, dust bathing also helps prevent their feathers from turning too oil.

Chickens prefer dry soil for dust bathing. Your chickens will dig holes, especially underneath their coop, to take dust baths. Dust baths also help chickens get rid of dead skin cells, coop bedding, and grass that get under their feathers.

After dust bathing, your chickens will get out of the holes and shake their feathers. They will dig new holes the next time they feel like taking dust baths.

– Cooling Off

If you notice your chickens digging holes in hot weather, they want to roll in the dirt to cool themselves off. Once your chickens dig nice holes, they will sit in the holes, cover themselves with dirt, and then wait for their bodies to cool down.

Dirt has a cooling effect on chickens. These birds get a pleasant feeling after covering themselves with damp soil from the holes they dig. If you watch your flock keenly, you will realize that they rarely cover themselves with the dirt on the surface.

Instead, they will dig holes to get fresh, cold soil to cool themselves down. After all, chickens don’t have any means to protect themselves from scorching heat, particularly in summer.

– Foraging for Food

Chickens also dig holes to forage for food. Free-range chickens are more likely to dig holes in your yard as they forage for insects. Chickens know that there is plenty of food beneath the earth’s surface.

Therefore, they will dig holes in the ground to forage for worms, snails, bugs, and grubs. Chickens also dig holes in the ground to get seeds since seeds are some of the chickens’ favorite foods.

If you get your chickens digging holes in your garden, they don’t necessarily want to dust bathe or cool themselves off. Most probably, your birds could be foraging for food.

– Egg Laying

Chickens usually don’t lay eggs anywhere since they know the eggs carry their offspring. Like indoor chickens lay eggs in nesting boxes, free-range chickens, on the other hand, dig holes in the ground to make nests for laying.

They want to keep their eggs safe, and the best way to keep the eggs safe is to have them in secure holes. However, your hens won’t dig holes to lay anywhere. Instead, the hens will find secure spots where they will dig holes for laying.

If you don’t remove the eggs from the holes, your hens will also use the same holes to incubate their eggs. Hens will constantly scratch the ground when preparing their nests. They will make small holes in the ground as they try to get the perfect spot to make their nests.

– Boredom

Chickens are pretty social birds. They get bored quickly if they don’t get an activity they can indulge in. If you watch your flock for a while, you will probably notice that your birds are moving together while digging holes.

This act of digging holes keeps them active and happy. A vibrant and happy lifestyle isn’t only beneficial for your birds’ health, but it also helps the birds bond and interact with each other.

It would be best if you were happy when your chickens are digging holes together since it will help them avoid boredom, which can make your chickens unhappy and inactive over time.

How to Stop Chickens From Digging?

Although chickens digging holes is a natural behavior that seems to benefit these birds, this behavior can ruin your yard. Furthermore, chickens can dig holes in the wrong places giving you the unnecessary task of burying the holes.

Fortunately, chicken keepers can stop their birds from digging. Check these ideas here on how you can keep chickens from digging.

– Prepare a Dust Bath For Your Chickens

Chickens will always get the urge to dig holes for dust bathing. However, they can ruin your lawn if they keep digging holes everywhere whenever they want to get dust baths.

The best way to save your yard from the digging birds is by making a single, large dust bath for your chickens. Here is how you can prepare a dust bath for your chickens.

  • Dig a hole at a designated place in your yard to make a dust bath for your free-range chickens. Or, get a huge container if you want to prepare a dust bath for your indoor chickens.
  • Put some fine sand or dirt in the hole to make a suitable dust bathing spot for your free-range chickens. Put the fine sand or dirt in the large container for indoor chickens. The fine sand or dust is easy for your chickens to scratch up while dust bathing.
  • Add some diatomaceous earth to the dust bath to give your chickens additional protection against mites and lice.
  • Cover the dust bath to keep it bone dry and prevent it from clumping. For the outdoor dust bath, you can cover it with a tarp, tent, or umbrella to protect it from the rain.

– Fence Your Yard

Even after making a homemade dust bath for your birds, they might continue digging in your yard to forage for food or eliminate boredom. Since you don’t want them to keep digging those ugly holes in your yard, the most effective way is to fence your yard.

A good fence will keep the birds off the yard, and you will barely notice any holes in the yard.

– Introduce Fake Scarecrows and Predators

Some chicken owners opt to use pets like dogs to keep their chickens from digging in their gardens. However, using pets isn’t the best option for stopping chickens from digging since pets will scare your birds, ultimately stressing the birds.

Placing fake scarecrows and predators in places where you don’t want your birds to dig can work excellently.

However, the main problem with using this method is that chickens are pretty smart, and they will soon detect that a fake scarecrow or predator isn’t a threat. Therefore, this method might not be practical, particularly in stopping free-range chickens from digging.

Nonetheless, the method will work for chickens that don’t spend the most time outdoors. For instance, your indoor chickens won’t start digging around when you let them outside once they notice the fake scarecrows and predators.

Do Roosters Dig Holes?

Yes, roosters can also dig holes, but not for the same reasons as hens. For example, your roosters will dig holes to dust bathe or cool themselves down in hot weather. They will also dig holes to forage for food.

Conclusion

Chickens like digging holes, just like pigs, like rolling on mud. Irrespective of the chicken breed you are raising, you will notice your chickens digging holes. Ultimately, chickens dig holes for their benefit to dust bathe, eliminate boredom, or forage for food.

The problem, however, sets in when your birds start digging holes in the wrong places. Fortunately, you can keep your birds from digging in the wrong places.

Chickens   Updated: July 1, 2022
avatar Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too.

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