Should you bathe your chicken?

Bathing a chicken is a topic that has come up a lot lately. I've recently been part of a large group discussion about whether you should bathe your chickens or not. It ended up getting quite heated on both sides which prompted me to write this post. You see, while there are reasons why you should bathe your chicken in certain instances, this isn't really the common thing you need to do. After all, what is the point of chickens taking dust baths by themselves if they still need a water bath? Isn't that kind of redundant?

So what I want to talk about today is when you should bathe your chickens and why you should bathe your chickens or why not.

bathing chickens

Do chickens need a bath?

Generally, chickens are pretty good at keeping themselves clean. They're kinda like cats in that regards...I guess. Chickens like to dust bathe. They find a spot to roll in the dirt and have a grand ole time fluffing the dirt up under all their feathers. Once they're done they stand up and shake all the dirt back out in a huge cloud of dust! 

Chickens get clean by getting dirty. Dust baths help to dry up excess oils on their skin, get rid of mites and lice and it cools them down in summer. Plus I think they just really enjoy taking them!

Since chickens do such a great job of keeping themselves clean, they could go their whole lives without needing a water bath. Sometimes though, the chicken just manages to get themselves into a predicament where a real bath is absolutely necessary.

 Reasons you may need to give your chicken a bath

* One of the main reasons you would bathe a chicken is if they have a case of vent gleet or an extreme poopy bum. Huge chunks of poop aren't just going to fall off and go away on it's own. Leaving it there can attract flies and you definitely don't want to have a case of flystrike on your hands! In this instance a bath might be necessary. It'll go quicker if you carefully trim off the poopy feathers first. In this case though, I try to get away with just soaking and bathing the butt end of the chicken.

* Depending on the roosting situation, during the night sometimes one chicken on a higher roost will poop on a chicken on a lower roost. Poop on the back may or may not be a cause for bathing a chicken, depending how bad the poop is. You may be able to just clean off the spot on the chickens feathers that has the droppings on it. Unless it's horribly messy, the residue left behind when you clean off the actual chunk of poop should be minimal and should dry up and flake off on its own. However if they're splattered with some particularly horrible diarrhea style poop then yes the chicken may need a bath. 

* A broken egg might be a reason to bathe a chicken. If you can get away with spot cleaning the chicken, then try that first. If they managed to really get covered in egg, they're going to need a bath or the egg might attract flies. 

* Mites or lice are generally not a reason to bathe a chicken. I prefer to handle external parasites with my dust bathing mixture instead. In cases of extreme infestations though, you may decide to give the chicken a bath. When bathing a chicken with mites or lice you'll want to use a mild puppy flea shampoo instead of the baby shampoo in the instructions below. 

* An injured chicken may need a bath depending on the severity of their injury. Chickens don't tend to bleed a terrible amount though, so if possible avoid bathing until after they are healed to clean them up. (of course you'll want to clean the wound as you treat it)

If you've decided to bathe your chicken, for step by step instructions head over to How to Bathe a Chicken to see exactly how I handle bath time. Hint: it's about the same as bathing a small dog!

Reasons you do not need to give your chicken a bath

* If a chicken just happens to get themselves dirty with just dirt all over them then no they do not need a bath. Even after getting stuck in the rain and looking like a drowned rat...they do not need a bath. Dirt will dry and flake off, save the bathing for the truly messy stuff.

Of course if you're showing your chickens you'll need to bathe them before each show. Thankfully, most chickens like baths so it won't be too big of a deal for the chicken. Bathing a chicken for a show is a little different then a normal bath, and since I don't show my chickens...if you want to know how to bathe a chicken for show you're going to have to head over to Poultry Show Central for their expert advice.

Now that we've covered all the details I have to ask: What's your take on the subject?  Do you bathe your chickens? Why or why not?

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