How To Keep Them Bright & Fluffy!
Do you have a Silkie that's looking grubby?
Maybe you think your Silkie looks 'flat' rather than the typical poofy fluff ball they used to be?
Or maybe you are wanting your Silkie to look it's best for an upcoming show or event?
Whatever the reason, if you want a squeaky clean poofy Silkie then this is the article for you!
Ever since I joined Backyard Chickens, the most frequent question I get asked when posting my Silkies is...
"how do you get them so white and fluffy?".
Well there is no special trick or magical ingredient. Instead it comes down to putting time and effort into it and choosing the correct products and items to use.
In this article I'm going to cover everything I can think of when it comes to giving them a bath. This will include things such as bathing, drying, nail & beak trimming, cleaning the face and how to keep ontop of their cleanliness.
So, let's get on with it!
• A bath, Sink or Buckets
• Warm Water
• Shampoo (Baby Shampoo and Pet Whitening Shampoo if washing whites)
• Swarfega (Original)
Firstly, fill up your bath, sink or bucket with warm water and squirt a bit of baby shampoo into the water (or if washing whites, put in the whitening shampoo). Fill it until there's is enough to reach the top of your chickens legs.
It's important to make sure you have everything at hand before getting your chicken in the water. Open all shampoo bottles and have them next to you before you begin. If bathing for showing purposes, do it as close to the show date as possible but not on the day itself. The day before is best for Silkies.
Once everything is set up, retrieve the Silkie you are washing and slowly place them into the water. Some birds accept this straight away and enjoy the warmth, however, some may flap so gently hold them still until they calm down.
Wash the warm soapy water from the bath over the whole body but avoid splashing soapy water on the face as it can irritate the eyes and nose. Make sure to get under the wings wet too!
Now that your Silkie is soaked through, apply a reasonable amount of baby shampoo (I use Johnsons Original) onto the back, chest and neck. Gently rub this in with your hands creating a lather but don't scrub the feathers as it may damage them. When a nice lather is going, get the toothbrush you set aside and brush the shampoo into the feathers, following the flow of the feathers. Never brush in the wrong direction!
Be careful going over the hard feathers on the wings but don't miss them out. Make sure to go under the wings and tail feathers, do the chest, legs and foot feathers too.
Once the whole body is brushed with shampoo, wet the crest with plain water, apply some shampoo directly onto the toothbrush and brush into the crest being careful to avoid the eyes. If you are bathing a bearded Silkie, make sure to do this with the beard too.
Next step is to rinse your bird off. Empty the bath/sink or if using buckets, use a one with clean water and have jugs filled to use too.
Use either your bath hose, sink tap or water jugs too rinse off the shampoo. Begin with the crest, try and cover the eyes and nose if possible and finish rinsing the head as quick as possible. Continue with the rest of the body and under the wings until your bird is soap free!
If you are washing a white Silkie, repeat the shampooing process above with whitening shampoo (I also use Johnsons Dog & Cat Whitening Shampoo). Add it in all the same areas using extra on the foot feathers and around the vent if it's dirty, brushing it in with the toothbrush. Rise again until the bird is totally soap free.
Next step is focusing on the feet. Of course these can get very dry and all sorts of muck can stick to them...but not for long!
As advised by a retired showing judge, I use Swarfega (the original green one) on the feet and foot feathers. I have even used it on stained neck/chest feathers and it cleans them great.
It leaves a beautiful finish on the birds legs, giving them a shiny rubbery look as well as making the foot feathers fluffy.
When the feet are still wet, scoop some onto the toothbrush and brush it into all of the scales of the legs, the toes, the nails, the bottoms of the feet and also onto the foot feathers.
You may want to repeat a couple of times but once satisfied, rinse the legs and feet fully with clean water.
Once your Silkie is fully rinsed off, gently squeeze off excess water and remove them from the bath/sink/tub and wrap them into a towel ready for the next stage.
• Soft Baby Brush
• Patience, plenty of it!
You've just finished bathing your Silkie and have stood them onto a towel. The best way to keep them secure and warm is to wrap them up like a burrito!
Don't over tighten it, just enough to they feel secure. Keep them in this for a few minutes for excess water to be absorbed by the towel. During this time, you may wish to do some facial cleaning before you dry them with the blow dryer. Skip to the facial cleaning section if you do, then come back to this part afterwards to complete drying!
Once the towel has done its job, unwrap your chicken and set away your blow dryer on a cool, low speed setting. Most chickens aren't bothered by this but some may find it strange at first. As they get more relaxed, you can up the speed. You can up the temperature but make sure you don't burn your bird!
Begin drying from the tail, up towards the head. Hard feathered birds are dried head to tail but since silkies are soft feather, I dry them tail to head. Drying them this way adds extra volume and more poof!
Continue drying the whole bird, using lower heat settings on the crest and under the wings. You may feel like they are never going to dry but trust me, they do!
To speed up the drying process, spread wet feathers apart with your fingers and use quick movements over wet areas with the dryer.
Make sure to constantly keep checking your Silkie to ensure it is not overheating.
Carry on until your bird it's fully dry. Slight dampness on feathers is ok on a hot day but on chilly days the bird must be completely dry before going back outside.
To finish off drying, I use a very soft baby brush and brush the feathers. I brush everything in line with the feathers except the tail which I brush upwards to make the tail more poofy. Lastly, I add louse powder onto each of my birds around their vent and under their wings.
• Cotton Buds
• Petroleum Jelly
Silkies just love getting food stuck on their faces, particularly if you have been feeding them fresh juicy treats.
Males tend to end up requiring more time labouring facial cleans due to the muck that can get stuck in the wrinkles of their walnut combs and large wattles.
If bathing, it's best to do this step after washing but before drying whilst your bird is wrapped in the towel.
The first step is to get a cotton bud and wipe over the beak, nostrils, wattles, earlobes and the comb. If your bird hasn't been bathed, you may want to dampen the cotton bud before hand so that dirt sticks to it.
Once cleaned and free from dirt, use another clean cotton bud to apply some petroleum jelly to the comb, wattles, earlobes and beak. Only add a small amount, too much can be irritating and large amounts may block the nostrils. This is to add shine and prevent dryness.
You may wish to apply it with your fingers so that there is less chance of it sticking to the feathers of the crest if the bird moves.
Nail & Beak Trimming
• Nail Clippers or Nail File
• Towel (If Needed)
• Corn starch
Nails and beaks continue to grow for a chickens whole life. Nails can become long and overgrown quite easily if Silkies are kept in a run rather than free range. You have to take particular care with some Silkies 5th toe nail due to how the toe is positioned making them more likely to curl.
Even when not bathing your Silkie, it's advisable to keep an eye on their growth and trim them when you think they are getting long. To complete this task, lie your chicken on its back holding it securely (but not too tight!) between your legs. If you find your chicken is difficult to handle, it may be safer to have an additional person on hand to hold it still or you could wrap it in a towel.
Trimming can be done with a small pair of nail clippers or even small scissors. However, with trimming there is a high chance that you can catch the quick in the nail and cause bleeding. If you do happen to catch the quick in the nail, dip the nail in some corn starch to help it stop.
This can be messy and the last thing you want on your beautifully white chicken is blood stains!
Instead, I prefer to use some fine sandpaper or a nail file and file down each nail. Far less chance of bleeding and you get a nice round edge on each nail.
Sometimes hard crusty mud will cling close onto each nail which can also be scraped off giving the nail a clean shiny finish.
As for beak trimming, I've never used clippers or scissors on this and most likely never would. Sometimes your Silkie may chip the very tip of their beak off causing pointy or sharp ends on the beak or it may just be too long. Again, I use a piece of fine sandpaper or nail file and file away any sharp edges, rounding off the very tip.
Ideally, this task should be done before bathing if washing for a show quality finish.
Keeping Them Clean
So you've just cleaned your Silkie or are just trying to keep on top of their cleanliness?
Look no further, here are some helpful hints and tips!
• If trying to keep a show quality finish, try and keep birds in a clean run at least 1 week before a show. Keep all females away from males which could potentially muck the feathers on a hens back. Do little checks everyday, if something needs doing, do it!
• Sunlight can cause white Silkies to get a yellow hint to their feathers. Only a real issue for showing. Better to keep them in a covered run with careful free ranging.
• Any Silkie that free ranges is most likely to get grubby. The main thing is to keep your Silkie out of wet/damp days where dirt is likely to cling to wet feathers.
• Keep on top of their coop cleanliness. Many silkies don't roost meaning they sit on the floor where the poop gathers. Spot clean it each morning.
• If your bird is beginning to get grubby, give them a quick brush over. Most dirt will come off, unfortunately stains won't unless you wash.
• Do monthly foot spa's! As a general way of me preventing scaly leg, I wash my birds legs at least once a month and spray them with a scaly leg preventer. I also use Swarfega here too.
• Silkies can't clean their crest themselves. If it gets stuck together, simply dampen the crest with water and try and brush dirt out with a toothbrush gently. Dry it afterwards.
• Consider re-looking at your silkies diet. Diet doesn't keep feathers clean but instead promotes new feather growth and quality. Poor quality feathers won't last as long and will lose their nice appearance sooner.
• Cut messy fruits into small cubes that are small enough to swallow whole rather than letting your Silkie mash it to size with their beak. We all know the mess it creates!
Ever since I first got Silkies, bathing them has always been a must since I show them. A clean Silkie looks so much more healthy and appealing but it also shows the care and effort that goes into them.
Regardless of whether you are showing or not, it is very important to keep a check on your silkies cleanliness and overall health.
Silkies have been bred to have these luxurious fur like feathers and they have to be cared for in a similar way.
Ultimately, how clean your Silkie stays can be down to the climate, living conditions and the bird itself. Each one is different and should be cared of accordingly. If bathing can be avoided, then it's best to use the simpler cleaning methods.
Products and methods I've mentioned here work best for me. It's down to you to decide what is best for your own Silkies, my methods may not work for everyone.
Not every Silkie is extremely poofy, some aren't due to breeding so even after a bath, some may not look like how you expect them too.
I hope this article has helped some of you out and I'm always happy to answer any questions and provide help when needed.
Bathing Silkies: How To Keep Them Bright & Fluffy!
Ever wondered how to get your Silkie back to it's original fluffy, poofy self? Look no further as I explain my show preparation methods!