Mad As A Wet Hen?

Aug 11, 2010 | 8 comments

Bath Time

     Our araucana hen had a little tummy trouble recently, the end result (so to speak) of which was a very poopy butt.  I went online to see what to do about it and found a number of informational sites telling how to bathe a chicken.  Who knew?  Apparently this is a more common activity than you would think – especially among the 4-H set who are readying their prize poultry for show at County Fairs.
     We read the directions carefully and followed most of the steps.  We prepared three buckets of tepid water.  The first contained Ivory liquid soap and some 20 Mule Team Borax.  The second contained just water; we chose to bypass the suggested bleach.  The last bucket contained a bit of vinegar but not the suggested glycerin.  We didn’t really care if her feathers were pure white and shiny – just poop-free.
     The directions suggested that you invite your friends, as bathing a chicken is high on the entertainment scale.  They said that the expression “mad as a wet hen” would take on a whole new meaning.  And they also warned not to let the chicken put its head in the water for they drown easily.  They said one of the invited friends could be given the keep-her-head-above-water assignment.
     Nyel and I elected not to invite friends, figuring that the two of us could handle it.  That turned out to be a good choice, as the araucana produced neither a cluck nor a flap during the whole bathing process.  She was absolutely docile, turning her head now and then to look (rather soulfully I thought) at us, but not appearing to be the least bit upset.
     The actual bathing method was to agitate the hen in the soapy water, as in moving her up and down, up and down.  No rubbing!  Wet feathers break easily.  Presumably the poop would dissolve.  After about fifteen minutes most (but not quite all) of the problem was solved and we decided to go to the rinse and dry stages.  The instructions suggested holding her above the final rinse water and letting her drain.  That took quite some time; feathers hold a lot of water.
     We isolated her from the other hens, putting her in a small cage of her own so she could dry.  (I should say, too, that the four other ‘girls’ had come to the washing area to see what was going on but had only lingered for a moment.  I’m sure they were worried that they might be next.)  After an hour or so the poor little araucana still looked wet and miserable so I got out my hair dryer and put it on the lowest setting.  She loved it!  Gradually her feathers dried and she again looked like her, white fluffy self.  And, happily, the remaining ‘problem’ is hardly noticeable at all.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Oh my, Sydney, I am sure I would have come to this event had you invited me! Please let me know the next time.

  2. MaryBeth Kelly

    You didn’t do her nails and offer a massage?

  3. Joanne Rideout

    I would imagine the best way to bathe a chicken would be using the same advice as in the old 500-lb gorilla joke: “very carefully.” 😉

  4. Brigid

    You continue to amaze me.

  5. Jim Courtnier

    I’m sorry that you have to bathe your hen Sydney. Did you find out what caused her illness?

    • sydney

      Thanks for the sympathy but, really, it wasn’t too bad. We have no idea what caused her problem but she seems fine now. Maybe she got a bad worm in the garden!

  6. Betty

    You two simply amaze me.
    You failed to mention the smell of a wet hen..and how come you didn’t put downy in the final rinse? What color are her eggs normally (I’m sure she’ll be laying white ones now)?
    I can’t wait to hear the next adventure in the life of Oysterville’s princess hen.

    • sydney

      Actually, she didn’t smell much at all — maybe a little chicken poopy at first. Afterwards, there was just a faint odor of vinegar. Never thought about the Downy! Actually, we were just on a mission to get her cleaned up. We weren’t into the spa and grooming thing. But she does look pretty wonderful today. Her eggs are pale blue.


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