Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chicken Bathing 101

I have been asked these questions several times.

You give your chickens a bath?

Why do you give them a bath? They don’t need a bath, they take dust baths!

How do you give them a bath?

At what age do you give them a bath?

Before I begin; yes, I am the crazy chicken lady that bathes her chickens. Not often, but they do get baths.

When they were just a few weeks old I noticed they had poo stuck on their behinds. Not quite pasty butt, but being the clean freak that I am, I held them under a faucet of warm trickling water and worked to remove it. They didn’t care for it the first time, however, they got used to it. At this time I just used warm water and my hands to get them clean. I just washed the area where the poo was stuck to them being careful not to get them wet everywhere. This could have caused them to get too cold and become ill. As soon as they were washed, I dried them as much as I could with a towel and put them back under the heat lamp with the others.

Fast forward a few months. They now have all of their feathers and are no longer in the brooder inside the house. They have been outside for awhile and it is almost 90 degrees out. In an effort to help them cool down, and get them cleaner in the meantime, I decided to give them each a bath. I had 12 chickens at the time. This was an afternoon project. You will want to make sure you have all of your supplies together before you start. I did take breaks in between birds to get fresh water and dry towels.

Things you will need:


Bucket of wash and rinse water. Make sure it is warm.

Soap (I used Dawn)

A small scrub brush if you want to clean their nails. (I used an old toothbrush)

Warning: You will get almost as wet as they do the first few times.
Start by placing the first chicken in an empty Rubbermaid tote. You can add water if you like at first, but I found they were more receptive if the water wasn’t already in there. Make sure you have the chicken secured in the tub. At first it took two of us, but now I have a system down and the chickens know the routine. I use one hand on the top of their back to keep them from jumping out and the other to pour the water over them slowly. As you get them wet, work some soap into their feathers. At first the water will run off, but as you start to scrub them it soaks into their feathers.

Lather them as you would your own hair, or a dog. Be sure to get under their wings. Once their feathers get saturated, they get heavy and the chicken will opt to just sit while you finish. I also use a small brush to scrub their toe nails while I am bathing them. Be sure to get all of the suds rinsed. Any left will be drying on their skin.

Once they are rinsed well, wrap in a large towel and dry. I next place them on my lap and cuddle with them. They will often take a nap while sitting with me. I let them sit for awhile and get them as dry as I can and then place them in the sun to finish drying. The first thing they will want to do is preen their feathers and bask in the sun. I don’t allow them back into their run until they are dry so they can’t go roll around in the dirt right away.

Move on to the next chicken. At this time, I now have one towel already wet. I use it on the second chicken, but also get a dryer one when I have gotten it as dry as I can with the first towel.

I usually bathe them once or twice a year. After the first bathing it gets easier. It also gets them accustomed to the water, so if it gets really hot you can mist them down in the summer to cool them without having them freak out so much.

The next time I gave them a bath was during the winter. By this time I had an indoor laundry sink. You know- the nice large ones you can get at Menards for $30. I love it for giving them baths. Simply place the chicken in the sink, turn on the water to a trickle, and bathe. Disclaimer: Your walls (and you of course) may get wet as they often shake like a dog to get the water off of them. I do this over a period of a few days. I bring each chicken in one at a time, give it a bath, and put it in a box in my basement under the heat lamp for the night. The next day they are dry and ready to go back with the others. They enjoy being pampered.

My outdoor bathing has progressed since I started raising chickens. I now have an outdoor sink.
I fill it up with the warm water already in the hose it is attached to, put them in the sink and wash. As I am washing them the water in the hose heats up again (from the sun) and they get a nice warm rinse as well. I sanitize the sink when I am finished because we use it for many uses outside.

Bathing a chicken can be challenging, wet, fun, exhausting, but,YES, it can be done. And my chickens enjoy it. This is also a great time to look them over and make sure they don’t have any infestations, or health issues.

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