I have been eyeing Mini for a few days. It's perfectly possible that all my girls are a bit grubby, but Mini looked shocking. Her feet were a dirty grey, and her knickers were disgusting. At this time of year, fly strike is a real possibility, so there was nothing for it. Mini had to have a bath.
Mini has been bathed before, and I've also bathed Delilah (RIP), so at least I'm not a complete novice. The ever tolerant husband has made me promise, however, that all future bathings take place in a bucket in the garden, and not the family bath, so this was going to be a new experience for us both.
I nonchalantly wandered over to the garage to fetch a bucket. The girls all stopped what they were doing to watch me. The corn is kept in the garage, and they are forever optimistic. It took a while to locate said bucket, and when I emerged from the garage I found the entire flock sat patiently by the back door. Now, usually when I appear with something in my hand that isn't corn, they mutter to themselves and walk off in a crestfallen manner. Today, though, I had a bucket. And a bucket might contain all number of tasty things. An excited chattering and jostling commenced.
Gingerly, I stepped between the girls, shooing all the way. Not to be deterred from the possibility of food, they ignored me and did their best to trip me up. Tame chickens can be a hindrance as well as a blessing. Eventually, the seven of us shuffled across the decking to the back door, and I made my escape into the house. As the bucket filled with warm water and a generous squirt of washing up liquid, I lobbed a slice of bread out of the window for them to scoff. Much contented bokking.
Now, the tricky bit. I carried the half filled bucket outside, and tried to look innocent. The hens were having none of it. A concerned chuntering began, and they slowly began to congregate at the furthest point of the garden away from me. Trying to pretend I was just going for a stroll, I walked slowly down the garden towards them, not making eye contact. Now they knew something was up. Mabel eyeballed me with suspicion, and then legged it as fast as she could into the convent. The others all followed her lead. As Mini thundered past me, I swooped down and picked her up.
She let out a startled 'mer MUH!' (her 'Brum' sound effect) and then just relaxed, resigned to her fate. I scratched her head, and talked in a soothing voice as we approached the bucket. Mini looked at the bucket, looked at me and bokked hopefully. I felt rotten.
Then I dunked her. She squawked a bit, and then just seemed to lose the will to complain. I suspect that being bottom hen is a hard cross to bear for poor Min, and nothing awful that happens to her is much of a surprise any more. I lathered her up, and then realised my problem. When I've bathed a chicken in the bathroom, I've used the shower to rinse them off. Oh dear.
I released Mini on to the decking. She stood there, covered in bubbles, and with her usually fluffy feathers slicked to her tiny frame, while I emptied the bucket and went inside to refill it with rinse water. Seeing her opportunity, the little bedraggled hen hot footed it down the garden.
And what a pathetic sight it was. Pekins usually look as though their feet have been stuck to their round bodies. You'd be forgiven for thinking that they didn't have legs at all. Now that all the fluff and feather was slicked down with fairy liquid, the scary truth was revealed. Mini resembled a hairy dinosaur, with long stilt-like legs. Eugh.
I took off in pursuit, and spent several frustrating minutes chasing her around the shrubbery. Finally caught, she was unceremoniously dunked back into the bucket and rinsed. The other hens kept their distance, obviously assuming that Min was merely my first victim.
Wrapping Min in an old towel, I brought her inside to watch 'Loose Women' while I blow dried her feathers. She loved being returned to her clean, fluffy self. She particularly enjoyed the custard cream.
Just don't tell the husband.