It's a beautiful spring day here and uncharacteristically warm. On such days, my mind rather strangely turns to knickers, and the washing thereof. For you see, chickens have a design flaw. They have lots of fluffy feathering around their bum. And that means that they get mucky on occassion. Being without the ability to use toilet roll, the clean up operation falls to you, dear Chicken Keeper.
I use a large builders bucket, and fill it with six inches of warm, soapy water. I then try and look innocent as I amble towards the dirty hen. Unfortunately, chickens aren't nearly as stupid as most people think they are, and if they've already had experience of the bidet they will not be overly cooperative. Today I had Mabel, Hilda, Doris and Celia in need of a spa treatment. I collared Hilda first, and she managed to thoroughly drench me by splashing about in the water and shrieking like I was attempting to drown her. Once she'd calmed down, it's a fairly simple procedure. I just work any dirt out of the hen's feathers gently with my fingers. The warm water makes this a fairly easy if unglamourous task. Once Hilda was clean, I placed her on the patio. She stalked off wetly, leaving a trail of bubbles in her wake. A wet pekin is a sorry sight, and rather resembles someone trying to walk in snow shoes.
The other hens were rather less dramatic and it was all over and done with quite quickly. The hens who had escaped the bath sat smugly on the perches in the Palace run, preening their fluffy tail feathers. Hilda sat next to them, hunched up like a vulture, and periodically shook her tail and sprayed the dry hens in an act of pure vengeance. Much muttering ensued.
This isn't just an aesthetic procedure. As we move in to spring, the fly population will be on the increase and it isn't just rabbits that can suffer from fly strike. My advice will always be: see a dirty pair of drawers, fetch the builders bucket. They won't like it much, but it's a basic welfare issue. It's also worth noting that feathers are like hair, they can be cut with no pain to the owner. If you have a particularly bouffant chicken bum in your flock, sometimes a quick trim can cure the problem. They do look odd when you do this, though. And disgruntled.
As one of the older hens, Doris has learnt a few tricks. When released from the bucket, she shook herself and then ran straight down to the greenhouse. She is currently laid out on the greenhouse path, enjoying her own personal sauna. It's rather disconcerting from a distance, as she rather looks like a discarded feather duster. However, in an hour or two she will unpeel herself from the ground and will be back to her glamourous and bouncy self.
Where as I think Hilda's vulture stance is here for the day.