Hen Bathing and Weeding the Easy Way

Our hen, Mrs Cluckerbuck, has a sorry behind. Even though they have been kept undercover due to the quarantine around an outbreak of avian flu in the UK, they are regularly cleaned out but the rain has been throwing up more mud than we can handle at the moment. A trek up the garden reveals the state of the ground which is slippy underfoot and by the hen house we are faced with a quagmire. We have plans to move them the hen house soon but the constant rain over the last month, and the snow, has put these plans back by several weeks. This is the first weekend in a long while that we have been rain and snow free. The problem with dirty hens is that it can lead to infections and trouble, especially at the egg producing end, so we decide to bathe Mrs Cluckerbuck.

bathing hens, weeding, weeds, gardening, pig row

We used two lukewarm buckets of water, one containing a very mild shampoo and another just containing lukewarm water for rinsing off the hen. As we bathe Mrs Cluckerbuck, Gene Simmons escapes from the coop and makes his way down into our fruit patch to look down on the events that are unraveling. Maybe he thinks that Bertie, our long gone and extremely vicious White Sussex cockerel, also went down the steps to the house and was never seen again. Maybe, just maybe, we are slow cooking Mrs Cluckerbuck in a bucket in the ginnel. By the way, this is not a Northern recipe. This is not: take one chicken and two lukewarm buckets of water, find a ginnel behind a house and dunk chicken in first bucket, leave for twelve hours and use the water to make a gravy. No, in the North we have progressed from such nonsense and now use three buckets to do three chickens, and the ginnel is for traditionalists only. Back to bathing the hen. When bathing a hen, do not dunk its head, this is not an exercise in drowning, hens do not hold their breath or do the back stroke. Remember to keep the wings between your hands or else a hen will flap, so for a new hen keeper it will be a two person job. Most hens calm down when they are in warm water, most quite enjoy it but Mrs Cluckerbuck is not most hens and is in fact quite angry about the whole humiliating experience. It's as if we went up to her in a coop and handed her deodorant, and walked away without saying anything. 

washing hens, chickens, pig row

After a gentle washing, and yes you will have to use your fingers on any matted parts, cover the chicken up with something warm. We use some old towels and then get out the hair dryer. You may think this is the most pampered chicken in the North but you're wrong, you cannot, should not and must not bathe a chicken and leave it wet. The chicken will become ill as its body temperature cools and being North of the Watford Gap means the air round here can still be bracing even in the middle of July. One summer we even managed to take our cardigans off but we did it too soon and got an awful case of the snivels. So, bring in the hair dryer on the lowest heat, again we do not want crispy chicken and give the chicken a good going over. Do not turn the chicken over, they give up after awhile and sometimes doze off, and that can be dangerous. Mrs Cluckerbuck is moulting at the moment, and after washing she looks rather sad but a gentle blast from the hair dryer and she comes up all sparkling, new and mean; she hates being held and is grumpy afterwards refusing corn and ignoring us every time we go to pick her up.

cleaning hens, poultry keeping, new to hen keeping

We could put Mrs Cluckerbuck back in the coop now. Place her in the nesting box to keep her warm but Andrew has a nifty suggestion, he wants his beds in the greenhouse cleared and though it is a cold day what little warmth there is has made the greenhouse a comfortable warm, dry space.  We can use Mrs Cluckerbuck and our cockerel, Gene Simmons, to do a spot of weeding in the glasshouse. The soil is dry too so it makes for a great dust bath for both of them and somewhere they can stretch their wings undercover. So, in they go for the rest of the day and clear out a load of pests in the soil. There is soil all over the path when we go to get them and they do want to leave but after some chicken herding we get them back into the coop.

ways of keeping hens

Using chickens like this is a great way to save your back, temporary runs means you can place chickens on open ground, to clear beds and eat any pests. Our favourite trick is to dump garden compost in several piles on the new beds and the chickens go through it, spreading it around. picking out pests and fertilising as this go. All the weeds are gone after a week, all the soil pests are eaten and the ground is literally raked over by their feet.


  1. Love this post and now encouraged to do a bit of chicken bathing myself as The Somme (as we are now affectionaly calling our garden) has had devastating affects on the birds plummage