Episode 17 – Don & Suzy talk about when and how to give your hen a bath, as well as how to care for her feet and nails.
The Reds Have Arrived
Chicken Feed Showdown! [05:18]
With the arrival of the baby chicks, I have decided to conduct a little experiment on feeding programs. We divided the chicks into two groups, each containing four New Hampshire Reds and four Jersey Giants. We weighed each chick to make sure their group weights were nearly identical at 14 ounces for each group.
Group A are being fed a medicated starter/grower which has a protein content of 18%. Group B is being fed a non-medicated starter feed with a protein content of 24% for six weeks and then will be switched to a grower feed at 18%. The expected outcome is that the higher protein birds will grow faster during that first six weeks, but we want to see how big the difference is between the two, as well as see how those differences play out until they begin to lay.
Chicken Spa Day [08:06]
We received two emails from listeners asking if it is safe to give your chicken a bath. We decided to expand those questions into the whole spa treatment… bath, feet and nails.
Trimming a Chicken’s Nails [09:06]
Chickens that free range spend a lot of time scratching at the ground to dig up bugs and dig holes. For most chickens, the scratching action is all they need to keep their nails in shape.
There are times, however, that hens don’t get all the scratching action they need. A hen that goes broody and spends her day sitting on eggs or a quarantined chicken kept in a cage does not spend any time scratching, and therefore does not wear down her nails as fast as they grow. In these cases, you may need to trim their nails for them so they can stand and walk comfortably.
To trim their nails, use regular dog-nail trimmers. Gently clip off the pointy tips, but be sure not to clip the vein that runs down the nail. For chickens with dark nails, it may be difficult to see and avoid the vein. Try shining a flashlight through the nail to see the vein.
If that doesn’t work, try clipping the nail a small amount at a time. After each clip, inspect the cut surface. If you go slowly enough, you will notice the clipped end begin to change color as you get closer to the nail.
If you do end up cutting into the vein, wipe the blood off with a towel and apply blood-clotting powder to the would. Do this repeatedly as necessary until the bleeding stops. You will want to have the towel and powder available before you begin cutting. Trying to find it while holding a bleeding chicken is not fun.
Lastly, do not put a bleeding chicken back in with the others. Chickens will peck at blood mercilessly.
Cleaning Their Feet [14:51]
Of our three spa day activities, this is the one you will likely do most often. Chickens spend their day walking in their own poo. Add wet conditions and your flocks’ feet can become very muddy and disgusting.
This will likely result in dirty eggs in the nesting boxes an hens keep stepping on them with filthy feet. Keeping your hens’ feet clean is one of the best ways to make sure you get clean eggs from their box.
To clean their feet, get two small basins tall enough to hold four or five inches of water. Fill one with warm water and mild dish soap. Fill the second with plain warm water.
Pick up your chicken, making sure to control their wings and legs. Gently place her feet in the water and hold her until she relaxes and stands on her own.
Keeping one hand on her back to discourage flapping, gently rub her legs and toes, working off dirt and poo as you go. If there are stubborn spots, let them soak a bit or use a soft bristled toothbrush to coax them off.
When finished, pick her up and place her in the second basin to rinse her legs and feet. Pat them dry with a towel and set her free.
Chicken Bath Time [21:10]
Chickens clean themselves by dust bathing, an entertaining process of flopping around in dirt. Most of the time, this will meet all of their hygiene requirements.
Sometimes, however, a chicken can get extra dirty when it is muddy out or if they stand under the roost pole too long. When this happens, it may be desirable to give them a bath.
Keep in mind that baths are for chickens that are fully feathered. Do not wash baby chicks that still have some of their chick fuzz. They are unable to regulate their body temperatures when they are wet and can get very sick or worse.
To do the bath, fill two basins with warm water. Add baby shampoo to one of them and mix it up. Gently place your chicken into the bath. Again, be sure to control her wings and legs until she relaxes and accepts the situation. This could take several minutes.
Once she does relax, it is possible for her to fall asleep, so make sure to keep her head about the water.
Lather her up gently with the warm soapy water and let it soak in. For stuck-in dirt and poo, gently work it free with your fingertips. Don’t try to pull stuck clumps off.
Once she is clean, move her to the rinse basin and rinse the soap off her. use a towel to get rid of excess water.
If it is warm outside, you can let her go and she will air dry. If it is cold, try drying her with a hair dryer set on low heat before letting her go.
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