Oh, poop! (How to Give a Chicken a Bath)

Ahhhhhh, yeah. The girl whose top fear about getting chickens was dealing with poop, has met her nemesis. Chicken poop.

Before getting chickens, I’d heard they poop a lot. And they definitely do, but not as much as my imagination had led me to believe. I envisioned chicken poop everywhere, on every surface in the coop, in the run, in the nest box, on the roosting bar, in their food, in their water, on the walls, in my hair, on my clothes, in-between my toes… Somehow, through all of that, I failed to imagine poop sticking to their feathers. Seriously? How did I not think of this one?

So a couple of days ago I went out to the coop to have one of my daily visits with the girls, as I sat perched on the edge of the door frame we chatted away. I asked how their day was going, told them about mine and they mm-bawwk-bawwk-baaaaawwwkked in return. We had quite a nice conversation while they dined on the apple core treats I’d brought for them. When they were finished and our conversation was winding down they turned to get into a single file line and march back up their ladder into their coop for a little rest. I always love watching them walk away because, frankly, chickens have really cute butts.

Zydeco (the hawk looking chicken) has very cool tail feathers and Billina and Jolene have the cutest fluffy butts, or at least they normally do. That day, Zydeco went first, marching her way up the ladder with her tail feathers following at attention, followed by Jolene, strutting in the fancy-pants way that she does. Then Billina whipped around to follow, only something was following her… something was stuck to her fluffy butt. “What on earth?!” I thought to myself, “What the…. Oh,no!” You can imagine the horror I felt when I realized that Billina had big glob of poop stuck to her feathers. “No! No, no, no. That can’t be. Uh, uh. No…”

“Great. Now what?” I remember reading that baby chicks will occasionally have that happen and all you have to do is get a wet paper towel and wipe it off. But baby chicks are little and this chicken and her poop are not. Much as I hoped it would, I knew no wet paper towel was going to fix this mess. So I watched the girls go into the coop, then turned away and walked back to the house, trying to pretend I never saw it, but I couldn’t.

“Maybe she’ll clean it up herself.” I thought to myself, knowing full well that would be nearly impossible. “Maybe it will fall off.” Sure, it’s 10 degrees outside, that’s not going to “just fall off” any time soon. Nope. In my gut I knew I was going to have to deal with it. The rest of the day I couldn’t get it out of my head. That afternoon, my son went out to check for eggs. He came running back into the house and said, “Mom…. This isn’t good…” I know he expected me to be surprised, but unfortunately I already knew what was coming. “…Billina has a big bunch of poop stuck to her butt.” “Uh, yep, honey. I know.” was all I could muster up in response. He started drilling me with questions as to how we were going to get it off. “I have no idea.” I mumbled.

Then it dawned on me. “Can you give a chicken a bath?” I mean chickens usually give themselves dust baths, and I’ve never seen a chicken swim. I wasn’t even sure if they were supposed to get wet. Everything I’d heard told me water and chickens don’t mix and coops need to be dry. So I did what any other good Chicken-Mom would do. I Googled it… “how to clean poo off a hen’s bottom in winter”.

Much to my relief (and disappointment) I found it! Sure enough. You can give a chicken a bath! (And someone had posted detailed instructions as to how to go about doing it here.) Okay, that was solved. I need to give Billina a bath. That should be fun. So I waited another day, okay maybe it was two or three. I kept hoping and praying this problem would take care of itself (I’d read that it could), but instead things just kept piling up on her rear end.

Oh, poop!

Oh, poop!

Then I panicked, my thoughts running a muck. “What if she can’t lay eggs?!? None of them laid eggs today! They do EVERYTHING out of the same spot (the vent). What if I don’t take care of this? She could get all clogged up and DIE and it would be all my fault!” Thankfully, she laid an egg about an hour after my chicken-death thought so I still had time to plan. After stalling long enough, I knew it wasn’t going to resolve itself and finally got up the nerve to give the girl a bath.

According to Tilly’s Nest it’s supposed to go pretty smoothly. Here’s how it went for me:

Tilly’s Nest: Create a washing station.

  • Me: Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once you catch the chicken, while holding your hands over the wings, loosely wrap their head and upper body in a dry towel.

Ready for her bath!

Ready for her bath!

Me: Go out to coop with a bath towel and pick-up chicken by holding her wings in. Proudly come back to house with towel over her back and tail leaving her head and neck fully exposed. But I got her. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Place the chicken in the bin with soapy water. Cup some water with your hand and wet the soiled area. Yes, there really are not too many feathers there once wet. You will then be able to loosen to poop off the affected feathers by rubbing each feather between your fingers. Be careful not to pull the feathers. Also, clean the feathers very well around the vent. This may take some time. Once satisfied, transfer the chicken to the rinsing bowl and try to remove as much soapy water and remaining poop from your bird.

Washing feathers

Washing feathers

  • Me: Attempt to remove the worst of the poo with a paper towel and realize it’s a frozen glob. Place chicken in the wash tub with soapy water. Cup water with hand and splash at chicken’s butt. Stare at poop, willing it to fall off into the water. When that doesn’t happen, splash more water at chicken’s butt. Repeat 25 times so you don’t have to touch poop. Give up and grab scrub brush to “gently loosen poop from feathers” without ripping them out of her butt. Once all signs of poop are gone, run fingers through feathers to make sure they are clean. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once rinsed, squeeze the excess water out with your hands and then towel dry your chicken.

  • Me: Completely forget about squeezing excess water. Beg for assistance to take soaking wet towel off of chicken and put dry towel on. Make sure she’s still alive. She’s too quiet. Husband swaps towels and chicken is alive. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Now, move over to the drying station. On the lowest heat setting and speed begin to dry your chicken. Keep the dryer constantly moving and continually fluff the feathers as you dry with your free hand. After about 5 minutes, poof, your chicken’s beautiful fluffy butt will return.

Getting a blow dry!

Getting a blow dry!

Fluffy butt returns!

Finally – Her fluffy butt returns!

  • Me: Move to drying station (towel on floor with hairdryer nearby). Have husband hold chicken while fluffing feathers with one hand and holding hairdryer with the other. Question how many hands “Tilly” has. After about 45 minutes, poof, Billina’s fluffy butt returns! Be in pure amazement as to how “good” she was and how much she must have liked it. Check.
Happy chicken...

Clean, dry, happy chicken…

  • Carry chicken upstairs to give her a treat. As she snubs pears and acts like she can’t see them, panic briefly thinking you got soap in her eyes and made her go blind. Realize she’s not blind and wasn’t being “good”, she was terrified…
Three fluffy butts!

Three fluffy butts!

  • Return chicken to her coop to be with the other girls. Pat yourself on the back for giving a chicken a bath. Go in and wash out sink. Wash hands five times. Check and check.

So there you have it. One of my worst fears about chickens came true and I not only survived, but did just fine.

Conquer another fear. Check.

Kate

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14 Comments to “Oh, poop! (How to Give a Chicken a Bath)”

  1. Priceless post! Thanks for the laugh, what a great way to start the morning!

  2. Bravo Kate! What a great post. You ARE brave and I’m glad you’ve confronted one of your fears. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I heard a high pressure washer might do the trick too. I heard it was faster but feather loss is unacceptably high!! Love the post!

  4. Oh my gosh, you are so funny. I am here researching how to clean my chicken’s bottom and came across your site, thanks. This is a first for me and a must ~ Dotty, our Wyndotte has a huge glob. I was able to grab her today and inspect and whew, had to put her down since I had to go to work and was not sure how the heck this happened or what to do about it. I am sure she will be happy when it’s gone! Wish me luck!

    • Fanny, all of my “problem girls” are Wyandottes too. I think they have a different kind of “stance” when pooping than some other breeds, and the poop just sort of rolls down their backsides on the way to the ground.

  5. This is amazing! Dealing with a frozen butt or two myself and contemplating when I’m going to give in and bring them in for a bath. Husband is away at a work training on Sunday, so that might be the day and I can complete the cleaning without him knowing I am so chicken-obsessed that I gave one a bath ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Thanks for the giggle. I’m still terrified, though, because I, too, am going to bathe a chicken’s poopy bum for the very first time. At least I know you’ve gone before me and survived. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I am gearing up to wash 2 chicken butts…. Not looking forward to it and have been procrastinating doing it
    especially with 2 dogs who I will have to lock up and listen to bark while I am busy cleaning them. I am concerned about bringing them inside while it is 10 degrees outside and afraid that they go from frigid temps to cozy back to
    frigid. I guess if I can do it quick enough it won’t matter. Can I wait another day????

    • It was really cold here when I did this as well. The key is definitely to make sure they are dry after their bath so they don’t go back out into the cold with wet feathers. We have two dogs too which had to be corralled as well. Everyone survived. Good luck!

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