I've been putting it off, but it's no good. Preparing myself with a deep breath, I ran a bucket of warm, soapy water. The hens watched me carry said bucket out on to the patio, and en masse decided to leg it in to the Palace. They weren't exactly sure what the bucket meant, but they knew it didn't contain corn.
Several of the girls have been walking about with dirty knickers. Now, in the winter, this isn't a major issue (although, of course, it can be a welfare matter), but in the summer it becomes a more serious problem. Fly strike is a real risk to the hens, and the best way to protect the girls is to wash their undercrackers. They do not enjoy this, as a rule.
Steeling myself, I went to fetch Maude, by far the most laid back hen. Unfortunately for me, just as I was about to scoop her up, the youngest presented me with Maeve, by far the most narky hen. Not wishing to show fear to my children, I nonchalantly brought her over to the bucket. She eyeballed me, and muttered a low threat which roughly translated went along the lines of 'If you go through with this, I will remember. I will remember, and I will exact revenge. Terrible, unthinkable revenge'. Ignoring her chickenny hard talk, I plunged her in to the soap. Remarkably, she sat up to her neck in the foam and allowed me to clean her bum feathers. After a few minutes of soaking in the warm water, the tiny poo balls had melted away, so I released the beast. She stood, dripping, in front of me. A wet chicken is a truly pitiful sight. As the suds slid from her foot feathers, she stretched out her wings, shook herself, glared at me over her shoulder and did her best to stalk off with her dignity intact. She failed. The bath had flattened all of her underfluff, leaving her bald chicken bottom on show for all to see. The children nearly had a fit laughing.
Maude, Kiki, Doris, Mabel and Purdy all followed suit. Kiki was by far the least impressed, and on release legged it around the garden leaving a trail of suds in her wake. This new, slimline Kiki went like a bullet. Mabel attempted to walk regally from the bucket, but found that her saturated leg feathers made anything more than a shuffle impossible. Margot and Celia escaped bath time, as their undercarriages were clean as a whistle. They are obviously more lady like in their toilet habits.
So now I have a very soggy, skinny looking flock. The bathed beauties are all flattened on the lawn, getting a solar blow dry. The other two are watching from the dust bath, and probably sniggering.
Now I just have to worry about Maeve's come back.