What a pleasure it can be to be awakened by the chortling and warbling of birds! When they sing as we work in our yards or while we rest on our porches, what a feeling of contentment they can give us. Because birds can provide us with a rare kind of enjoyment, we sometimes build birdhouses to hang in our trees and place water baths in our gardens to attract them to our yards. However, we often overlook an important item necessary to the well-being of certain kinds of birds—a dust bath.

Dust baths are almost as necessary for some birds as water baths are for other birds. We usually don’t see birds dust bathing; it requires dry, dusty places that are not common in most city gardens and yards.

Birds need this kind of “talcum powder” treatment to help rid themselves of skin and feather parasites such as bird lice. After they cover themselves with dry dust and ruffle it under their feathers, they shake themselves vigorously, and the parasites drop away with the dust.

To provide a place for birds to dust-bathe requires very little equipment. All you need is a shallow wooden or plastic box large enough to accommodate a bird and deep enough to hold at least two inches of very fine, dry soil. You may add a little bit of powdered sulphur to the dusty soil to help rid the birds of parasites. Use about one part sulphur to eight parts dusty soil.

Place the box so that you can see it from a distance. Then you will be able to enjoy watching the birds dust-bathing without frightening them. And you will have happier, healthier, cleaner birds eating the unwanted insects in your garden and filling the air with their beautiful sounds.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney