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Why Do Chickens Dig Holes and Sit in Them?

Chickens are quirky creatures and you never know what they’re going to do next, but a lot of their quirkiness comes from instinct dating back to the dawn of time.

When it comes to digging holes, chickens have the foot structure and the instinct which makes them master diggers. Having the ability to dig well can be useful to chickens for a variety of reasons.

The main reason why chickens dig holes in the soil is to help them to get maximum coverage of dirt underneath their feathers when they dust bathe. They also dig holes to find cool earth on a hot day, to find food, to lay eggs in and in some cases because they just want to escape.

Read on to find out more about how and why and how chickens dig holes to sit in along with some tips on how you can stop your chickens from digging holes in your garden.

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Why Chickens Dig Holes

If you keep chickens and they’re digging holes either in the run or in various places when they’re free-ranging, there could be a variety of reasons why they’re doing it.

Here are the reasons why your chickens might be digging:

1- Chickens Digging Holes to Dust bathe

The main reason why chickens will dig a hole or create a chicken-sized dip in the ground is so they can bathe in dust to remove parasites and debris from their skin and under-feathers.

When a chicken dustbathes in dry soil or other loose ground surfaces, they spread out and use their wings to get as much dust onto their bodies as possible.

By creating a hole or dip in the ground they can contain the dust around them and get more onto their bodies for maximum effect.

Chickens will often dust bathe in a group so it’s usual to see them digging and flapping around together.

2- Chickens Digging Holes on a Hot Day

Chickens tend to dustbathe on warmer days when the earth is dry and they often incorporate this with sunbathing and relaxing.

Chickens can regulate their body temperatures by fluffing up their feathers, flapping and spreading out to get air around their bodies, but they also like to find cool places to sit and one of the best places is cool ground.

The top surface of soil or dust is much warmer than the earth below, so chickens will often dig holes to bathe in and cool down on a hot day.

chickens dust bathing in a hole

3- Chickens Digging Holes to Find Food

As a general rule, chickens will either surface-graze for morsels of food and vegetation with their beaks or in the looser soil they’ll use their feet to scratch and dig for living food such as worms.

When chickens find a good patch of soil that is rich in worms and other living creatures they’ll keep going at it to find as many treats as possible. Because chickens feet are very strong, they can quickly make holes and dips in the earth as they dig.

This type of digging can actually come in useful because chickens are really good at raking through the soil with their feet making it finer and removing small weeds as they go.

So next time you do a bit of gardening, you might want to get your chickens to come in and help!

4- Chickens Digging Holes to Lay Eggs

This behaviour is less common but can happen if a hen is broody and wants to sit on and hatch a clutch of eggs or there’s a problem that is stopping them from laying in the coop.

If chickens start laying elsewhere it generally happens somewhere secluded, such as under hedges, but in some cases, they do lay eggs in a hole that they’ve made in the ground.

This article was first published on April 7, 2021 by Pentagon-Pets.

It’s not an ideal situation, because it puts the chicken at risk of being attacked by a predator.

If you have a chicken who’s doing this, take a look at the article below for help on how to deal with a hen who’s not laying eggs in the coop:

Chickens Laying in Hedges or Bush (How to Stop it)

5- Chickens Digging to Escape

If you keep chickens then you’ll know that they’re excellent escape artists and if they’re not let out of the run much they’ll go to great lengths to get out to graze.

Chickens digging holes to escape is one of the more unusual reasons why chickens dig holes, but it does happen especially if there’s a section of fence they know they can easily get under with a little bit of work.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on April 7, 2021.

There are always those times when you need to keep your chickens in the run for some reason, but to prevent them from getting bored and frustrated in the run, it’s always good to allow them daily free-range time.

How to Stop Chickens Digging Holes

Because digging is part of a chicken’s natural behaviour it’s impossible to stop them from doing it, but you can prevent them from digging in places where you don’t want them to go.

When chickens dig to dust bathe or in search of food, they’ll usually have their favourite spots where the earth is loose, dry and easy to dig in.

If this place is your favourite flower bed and you don’t want them to go there, the only real way to keep them out is by fencing or blocking off that area.

Once a chicken gets to like a certain place they’ll keep going there and because they can be very determined they’ll keep on going unless stopped.

Fencing is the best way to keep them out, but if this isn’t something you want to do, you could try covering up bare patches of earth with stones.

If you do take away your chicken’s dust bathing area, it’s a good idea to replace it with one specifically designed for them in a dry area where you don’t mind them digging, preferably with the option of some shade.

Places Where Chickens Like to Dig Holes

Exploring the intriguing behaviors of chickens, one might notice their penchant for digging holes in specific spots around their environment. This activity, often driven by instinctual and practical reasons, reveals a fascinating aspect of their daily lives.

Chickens often dig holes in shaded areas to create dust baths, which are essential for their well-being. Engaging in dust bathing helps them to maintain feather health by removing excess oil, and it also provides a mechanism for parasite control.

In addition to shaded areas, chickens may also choose to dig holes near their food and water sources. This behavior can be attributed to their instinctual foraging habits, where they scratch and peck at the ground to uncover hidden food items, such as insects and seeds, thereby creating holes in the process. Ensuring that they have adequate food in their designated feeding areas might minimize excessive digging near these sources.

Another common place where chickens like to dig holes is around the perimeter of their enclosure or coop. This might be driven by curiosity, a desire to explore beyond their confined space, or an instinct to search for more food and resources. To manage this, chicken keepers might consider providing enrichment activities, such as treat-dispensing toys or pecking blocks, to keep them engaged and deter persistent digging in these areas.

Chickens Digging Holes – More FAQ’s

How Deep Can Chickens Dig?

When chickens dig to dust bathe or to find food they’ll usually scratch at the surface and make a dip around 1-2 inches deep. In some cases, they will dig deeper in an attempt to fit their whole body in the hole.

Do Roosters Dig Holes?

Roosters also dig holes to dust bathe or to find cooler earth to lie in, they have plenty of power to dig a deeper hole than a smaller hen and will enjoy sitting and bathing in their hole on a warm day.

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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on April 7, 2021.

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