Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yes, we do give our chickens baths!

Gads, another big gap between postings. As I said, spring hits us hard here on the farm, I think I've been working 12 hour days for the last three weeks, with no break!

Today I will be washing birds for a show next weekend. That's right, for those of you who don't own show poultry, before we take birds to a show we actually give them baths!

Here's an article I wrote last year about preparing for a show:

- About two weeks before the show (or as early as one month before if you are seeing feather degradation) check your birds for mites. (This is something you should be doing on a regular basis anyway, about every month or so.) If they show signs, de-mite them with either your powder of choice, or Ivermectin (we use Ivermectin, as it both de-worms and de-mites, see this link for more info: )

- About two weeks before the show, have your state NPIP tester come and test your birds. Some shows will let you test as you arrive, but then you may have bloodstains on your neatly washed birds, better to do them beforehand.

- About a week before, clean out all pens/coops/cages in which your birds live. Re-bed deeply with clean shavings.

- About a week before, if you have cages, put the birds into them to get them used to being caged. Practice taking the birds in and out of the cage (always headfirst!) so that it is comfortable with the process. Treats help with this. A piece of wood as a perch helps the birds get used to being caged. Leave them in there for several days (with food and water, of course!) then wash them.

- About seven to five days before the show, wash your birds. Assemble the following tools:

- Three pails or large buckets

- One large towel per bird

- Dog nail clippers

- Dog nail file

- An old toothbrush

- An old washcloth or other rag

- Blood stop powder, or cayenne powder (in case you nick a quick)

- Carriers deeply bedded with clean shavings

- Hair dryer (if it's cool outside)

- Dish soap (better to use something like Ivory than Dawn, which strips too much oil from the feathers)

- Apple cider vinegar

- Bluing (only use if you have white birds, and not too much!)

Fill the buckets with warm but not too hot water. Put some ACV into the second bucket (not too much, just enough to cut the soap) and if you are washing white birds, several drops of bluing into the third. Gently lower the bird into the first bucket (but do not cover the head), swishing it up and down to get the feathers wet. Put some soap into your hand and gently brush it onto the bird, stroking in the direction of the feathers, not against the grain. Work the soap in, paying attention to the vent area and the toes. Be careful with soap around the eyes, best to just use a washcloth to wipe the head area. Use the toothbrush to scrub the toes and legs, get all the crud off of them.

Transfer the bird to the second bucket, swishing up and down to get the soap off. Then put into the third bucket for a final rinse. Wrap the bird in a towel, leaving the head and feet sticking out. Sit with it on your lap (you will get wet) and gently trim toes and beak (no judge likes to be scratched.) Use the file on the beak to remove sharp edges and refine the look. Wipe around eyes again with the towel. Using the warm (not hot) setting on the blow dryer, dry the chicken so that it is almost dry (you won't get it all the way dry.) Place it into the crate with shavings in a warm, non-drafty place to finish drying (this may take several hours.) We find we can do between three and six birds per day effectively (run out of crates!) Once the bird is completely dry, return it either to the cage or its clean pen.)

To take to the show:

- Your NPIP form, and health certificates if needed.

- Food and water for all your birds. It sometimes helps them to drink if you start adding ACV to their water several weeks before the show, so if you run out of your own water you can add some ACV to the water at the show and the birds will recognize the taste.

- Extra shavings, just in case (if you have room.)

- Some Vaseline, for putting around eyes and beaks to make them shine (not too much!)

- Some folks use Pink Spray, or Show Sheen to spray their birds with, I find it tends to attract dust (and I don't care for the smell.) You decide.

- Paper towels, you never know if you'll need some.

- Baby wipes to remove any last minute stains.

Once the birds are dry, you're ready to pop them in the travel crates, and off you go!
So that's how we do it. At some point I'll make a video of the process, it's pretty funny to watch.


JRB said...

Where is the poultry show, out of curiosity?

Miz Green Jeans said...

The show is the Gateway Show, in Bloomington, Indiana. However I decided (after all that) not to go. See my next post.