Chinchilla Dust for Chickens: Do or Don’t?
Chinchilla dust is high-quality natural dust for chinchillas to bathe. Chickens also love dust baths, regularly rooting in filthy soil.
At first glance, chinchilla dust looks like a superior bathing solution for chickens. But is it safe for our beloved birds?
To find out, we first need to understand what chinchilla dust is.
- What is chinchilla dust?
- Can you use chinchilla dust for chickens?
- Chinchilla dust vs. diatomaceous earth
- Summary of the pros and cons
What is Chinchilla Dust?
Chinchilla dust is ground volcanic pumice that's commercially available in the stores. Pumice is a volcanic rock, light-colored with a lot of perforations. Super-heated pumice stones are violently ejected from volcanoes and rapidly cool down to end up in their signature form.
Chinchilla dust mimics the chinchilla's natural environment. Chinchillas love to roll in the dust with their extremely dense coat consisting of 50 to 75 hairs per follicle. The tiny dust particles penetrate their fur and remove loose hair, moisture, and oil.
Not all products on the store shelves labeled chinchilla dust are 100% natural ground pumice. Some brands mix in ashes, and some have their own aluminum silicate powder composition. Cheaper compositions can even contain pulverized milestone or glass particles.
Can you use Chinchilla Dust for Chickens?
Yes, you can use chinchilla dust for chickens and add it to their dust baths. There is, however, a risk for respiratory issues using fine dust, especially for sensitive chickens. Also, be aware that compositions with sharp glass particles can irritate a chicken's eyes.
Commercial products are based on milled pumice but don't put the granular grades on the label. It's challenging to track down the particle sizes. Any mix below grade 0 has half of its dust particles finer than 44 microns.
These small sizes come close to the respirable range. Dust particles smaller than 7 microns will enter the chicken's lungs when breathing. Larger particles can't penetrate the blood barrier via oxygen exchange but can harm the upper airways.
Adding Chinchilla Dust to a chicken's dust bath
Many people mix ashes from wood fires, diatomaceous earth, and herbs in their dust baths to aid the cleaning process. If you have chinchilla dust leftovers, they can be an alternative for wood ashes or diatomaceous earth.
Chinchilla dust isn't cheap, either. Chinchillas are much smaller than chickens, so you need more dust for your backyard chickens.
Chinchilla Dust vs. Diatomaceous Earth
Backyard chicken keepers regularly use diatomaceous earth (DE) in the chicken coop and dust baths. There is some debate on diatomaceous earth, its benefits, and its risks when used in poultry.
Diatomaceous earth is an off-white powder made from crushing siliceous rocks. It feels very similar to fine pumice powder and chinchilla dust.
Whereas pumice results from volcanic activity, diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized algae found in the ocean and soil. They constitute about half of the organic material in the oceans on earth. The crushed powder contains tiny sharp shells and is used to fight mites and parasites.
Although chinchilla dust and diatomaceous earth have different origins, they show a lot of similarities. After all, they are both silicon-based tiny dust-size particles.
We would use chinchilla dust only as an additive. The same as diatomaceous earth is usually applied.
You can use chinchilla dust for a chicken's dust bath. It's fine dust, so we would only add it to their regular dust bath. That way, it can be an alternative for wood ashes or diatomaceous earth. However, it's an expensive solution compared to regular soil.
Here is an overview of the pros and cons that we discussed.
- helps clean the feathers
- repellant for mites and parasites
- fine dust particles can harm the lungs
- it's an expensive solution, as chinchillas are much smaller than chickens