Bathing chickens

Can I give my chicken a bath? 

Do you bath your chickens? We recently met a customer who has a small flock of pampered pets that just love a bath. But is it good to bathe your chooks?

The simple answer to the question, “Can I give my chicken a bath?” is yes. But only if necessary.

Do chickens clean themselves?

If you watch chickens for awhile, you will notice that they spend a lot of time preening and arranging their feathers. Chicken besties will often preen each other.

When birds preen, they use oil from their uropygial gland, which is located at the base of the tail. Birds smooth the oil  over their feathers and skin. The oil helps to clean, waterproof and maintain feathers. In some birds, the oil has antiparasitic and antimicrobial qualities as well.

Chickens begin their cleaning routine by dust bathing. They roll around in dust or dirt, throwing it over themselves and between their feathers. The dust removes dead skin particles, excess oil and dirt, as well as parasites like lice, mites and their eggs. After a thorough dirt bath, your chickens will then shake all the dust and dirt out of their feathers.

After dust bathing, chickens will often lie in the sun, stretching out their wings to allow the sunlight to penetrate their feathers. This also helps in the cleaning process, as many parasites are killed by direct sunlight.

Chickens then preen themselves, rearranging their feathers and removing any remaining dirt with their beaks. They spread oil from their preen glad over their feathers. This oil is essential to maintaining feather health and quality.

It is because of preen oil that you really shouldn’t bath a chicken, except in extreme circumstances.

Firstly, chickens become cold very easily when their feathers are wet. That’s why so many of them avoid rain. Wet chickens may pick up respiratory infections and other diseases.

Secondly, washing chickens removes the oil from their feathers, causing damage and drying out the skin. It also decreases waterproofing, making them more susceptible to wet, cold weather.

When should I bath my chicken?

However, there are some circumstances in which it is necessary to bath a chicken. Namely, if the chicken:

  • Is extremely muddy
  • Has fallen into oil, molasses etc. We had one bird fall into a tub of yoghurt!
  • Has been pooed on 
  • Has a dirty vent (a poo-caked bottom)

Bathing a chicken in warm water is also sometimes recommended in the case of egg bound hens, prolapse or pasty butt.

How to bath a chicken

If you have to bath a chicken:

  • Use warm water
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals
  • Spot clean if possible
  • If the chicken has caked on mud or poo, allow it to soak first
  • Never pull at caked on muck
  • If the day is warm, towel the bird dry gently and put it in the sun to dry off properly and preen
  • If the day is cold, dry the bird inside next to a heat source or with a hair dryer

Do you have more chicken keeping questions? Send us an email through the contact form! And sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly emails with chicken keeping advice and special deals on Dine a Chook products!

Happy chicken keeping!

Rachael at Dine a Chook