Three years ago when I started on this great chicken adventure there was much I didn’t know. I have learned a great deal in a short time mostly thanks to BYC and other members who have answered my many questions. One of the interesting things I read about was giving chickens baths. My only experience had been blow drying a frozen crest on a Polish during the winter.
I didn’t really see the purpose or have any interest but I did read and watched a great video. http://hencam.com/faq/how-to-give-a-chicken-a-bath/ Little did I know I would use it in the future.
This past year I hatched out some Silkies, Sizzles and Showgirls just for fun. This summer was very dry and dusty so everyone enjoyed the dust and sand. However, the first bit of rain made me very glad I had paid attention to giving a chicken a bath. Both Snowball and Buzz turned into little muddy creatures.
Everyone else would look the same as normal, clean and beautiful but not these two.
After having much practice this year, here is what I have done a bit different.
You will need:
2 -3 dish tubs, deeper is better
First, unless it is very warm out, I give baths in the bath tub. It helps me contain them and the water to a spot where it is intended. I go into the bathroom, close the door to prevent escapes and keep the dog out. I turn on the overhead fan to help rid the bathroom of that lovely wet chicken odor. I put two dish tubs in the bath tub. I fill the first with about 4 inches of warm water and baby shampoo and the second with just warm water. The chicken goes into the first and is soaped and washed with a toothbrush. I brush out the feathers gently with the tooth brush until they are clean. Do not rub or brush the feathers backward, you will break or damage them. Usually it is the vent area and back that seem to be the worst and take the most work. For feathered feet I use my hand to untangle and rub them clean. Be very careful doing crest feathers. You do not want to get water and soap in their eyes or nostrils. Then into the rinse water the chicken goes. Sometimes I have had to repeat the process up to three times to get all the feathers fully cleaned.
When all the suds are rinsed out I wrap the chicken in a towel and place them in another washtub on the floor of the bathroom. This is to absorb as much water as possible and prevent escape or injury. Usually they huddle down and sit very contentedly. After about 10 minutes I get out the blow dryer. I set the chicken on the floor on a towel. I dry crest feathers, butt/vent area, chest and feet. Make sure you don’t use hot air. My dryer has a cool setting I use. I dry with one hand and separate the feathers with the other. I do not dry completely just enough that they are starting to fluff. The chickens I have used the dryer on have not been scared at all. After a few times they don’t even seem to care.
Next it’s off to a clean cage in the basement to dry completely. This can take up to 8 hours with some breeds or overnight. In the summer on warm days I let them set less time or skip this step. In cold weather I try to transition them back slower. I either wash them on a warmer day or move them from the basement to another cage in the garage for an afternoon before sending them back outside.
If you are washing in order to take them to a fair, show or wanting them to look their best you should do it a few days ahead. I have always heard three. This is so their feathers can regain their natural oils that have been washed off with the bath. I have found that using a gentle baby shampoo instead of a harsher shampoo like a dog shampoo is easier on their feathers. This is also a good time to add Bag Balm or Vaseline to their combs, wattles and legs. This will not only protect their skin but will also make them look their best.
Large fowl or standard size chickens are harder to do than bantams. However, I have a Polish rooster who is standard size who would fall asleep while I was blow drying his crest.
While giving a chicken a bath isn’t on my “preferred things to do” list, it isn’t really that hard. Depending on the bird you can get a bit wet yourself so be prepared. If you haven’t had a reason to give a bath, just wait you never know when you may have the opportunity.