Sunday 9 March 2014

Hot Weather Care for Chickens - Part 3

Hot Weather Care for Chickens

Another consideration during the hot weather is the potential for flies to become a problem in the rear ends of the hens.  Our wheaten Pekin Alice is still laying, which is very unexpected considering she usually shuts down the egg factory by around Christmas time.  The muscles in her rear are all relaxed in order to facilitate the exit of her every second day egg release and it is resulting in the feathers all around and mostly immediately below her vent, getting fairly soaked in loose droppings.  

Alice - mid blow dry
I am worried that a fly will lay it's eggs in this mess and it will result in Alice becoming fly blown.  I have seen one fly blown hen when I was much younger and it was awful.  She was getting eaten alive around her rear, a red, bloody mess and had to be put down.  So to stop this from happening to our little lady, I have had to wash Alice every time I notice her rear becoming soiled.  Also, droppings are acidic and when left on the hen's skin, they burn, cause discomfort and scald the skin.  


Washing Poop Soaked Feathers

What you should use:
1. A pair of disposable gloves - you don't want to recycle poop covered items.
2. An old, clean and dry towel (maybe two).  One you're happy to dry the hen's rear with.
3. A confined space to wash your chicken - we opt for the laundry, door closed, hen tucked into the trough.  They obviously won't enjoy being wet and they'll run as soon as they get the chance, best to limit their escape routes.  
4. Clean, fresh, running water.  No soap, my Vet strongly does not recommend it as it strips the feathers and skin of their protective oils. 
5. Flat surface to dry the hen on afterwards.
6. A hairdryer is a nice way to finish off the process. 

How to wash the hen:
1. With your disposable gloves on and the hen in a secure position which allows plenty of water to access her rear, thorough soak her rear feathers, using a gloved hand to work ALL of the droppings thoroughly from her feathers.  
2. Keeping the water running over the area is the best way to go for moving the poop off and away. 
3. Do not leave a sopping wet bottom, half caked in droppings.  Work the droppings out with your gloved hands, rinsing thoroughly until the area is poop free.  Assuming the hen stays fairly much in place, this should take up to ten minutes only. 
4. Place the hen-suitable, clean and dry towel onto a flat and stable surface and lift the hen up onto it.  I recommend putting the towel in place before you start the wash - makes it easier to transfer the hen onto the towel at the end of the wash. 
5. Gently squeeze out the excess water from the hen's rear with the towel.  
6. If the weather is horribly hot (35C/ 95F +) you can take the hen back to her pen after you have toweled her dry.
7. If the weather is cool you absolutely must dry her thoroughly to stop her suffering in the cold for the next hour or two with soaking feathers.  I blow dry Alice (and all my chickens who I have washed over the years) in a gentle and thorough fashion.  
Alice - nearly the end of her Sunday wash. 
8. Blow dry the hen taking extra care to not burn her under the heat of the dryer.  Imagine you are drying the hair of a toddler.  Keep the blow dryer moving all around the area, keep it around 20cm (7 or 8 inches) from the hen and turn down the heat as the feathers begin to fluff.  Takes 10 - 15 minutes to do properly. 

I find that hens fall into a hypnotic state during the drying phase and many of mine lean droopingly against me, even the most wild natured seem to surrender.  

Note: crushing, squeezing or forcing the hen into submission to keep her still during the wash, is incredibly uncomfortable, distressing and likely to be very painful for her.  If you have to wrap her in one of the towels, so that her rear is exposed and the rest of her remains controlled, this is a much better scenario.  Just don't wrap her tightly, she needs to be kept in place, not trussed up ready for the oven.  

Alice - perfectly clean, rear view.