Below is a guide to washing chickens, it is a method that uses 3 tubs, with the third one containing bluing water. The washing was demonstrated by William Halbach at a White Rock farm. If your chickens are not white you will not need to use bluing water in the final rinse tub as it is only used to make white feathers whiter, so in that case the third tub will just be plain warm water. It is important to make sure your chickens are well rinsed – some find adding white vinegar to the 2nd tub (first rinse) helps cut through the soap.
Washing White Birds
While on my vacation I made it a point to visit the Halbach White Rock farm at Waterford, where William Halbach, the junior member of the firm in charge of the poultry, was expecting me and was ready to wash a bird for the camera.
Three tubs were ready, one containing lukewarm water for the suds or washing water; the second tub with clear water, with just the chill removed and a third tub for the final rinsing. The water in this third tub was blued just a little - about like the laundress would use in bluing white linens.
Under ordinary conditions, where the bird is quite dirty and perhaps a little creamy, it is advisable to wash twice and sometimes three times. In such cases the bluing water for the first wash should be very blue. In fact, blue enough to leave the feathers very blue, and the bird should be left in that condition for a week or ten days as the bluing will bleach a little. The bluing can be washed and rinsed out at the last washing. If you are going to wash but once, then the bluing water should be much weaker in color as no bluing should show on the finished bird.
In picture No. 1 you see William Halbach holding a bird in the proper position for immersing. Note the legs are held back to prevent kicking and that the wings and body feathers are held loose so they will become soaked much easier and quicker.
Picture No. 2 shows the bird immersed. It is moved slowly back and forth until every feather is thoroughly soaked. It should also be turned from side to side so that both wings and all the body feathers will become well soaked, as shown in picture No. 3.
If you will note the expression on the bird, as shown in picture No. 4, you can see that the bird does not object to it. In fact, some of them seem to enjoy it.
Whether or not a bird makes much of a fuss depends a great deal on the way she is handled. A great many beginners handle a bird too roughly, frighten her and get a shower bath for their troubles. Where a bird is handled as shown here, there is seldom any trouble.
Be sure the feathers are well soaked before applying any soap. Picture No. 5 gives you an idea of how she will look when well soaked. When the feathers are well soaked there is very little danger of breaking them and the soap can also be removed much easier than where they are partially dry.
As soon as the feathers are well soaked they are ready for the soap. Begin on the neck, as shown in picture No. 6. Note again the expression on the bird, perfectly contented.
Next come the wings and back, see picture No. 7. I neglected to say that while we are not advertising any particular soap, you will have hard work to find anything better than Ivory soap.
After the neck, wings and back are well soaped, go after the tail as shown in picture No. 8. Be sure the soap is worked well down into the base or roots of the tail feathers as they get very dirty.
When working on the wings, should they be very dirty, spread them out on one hand and with a scrubbing brush give them a good scrubbing. Picture No. 9 shows a well soaked and well soaped tail. It doesn’t look much like a show tail in that condition, does it?
Picture No.10 shows the bird well soaped and big job now is to get the soap all out of the feathers. If you don’t the feathers will have a stringy appearance and the bird will look anything but finished. Work the bird back and forth through the warm water and work the water well through the feathers with the hand so as to remove all the soap you can before putting the bird in the next tub.
In the tub No. 2, that contains clear water with the chill removed, go through the same process of rinsing. I neglected to say that if the water is hard it will be more difficult to remove the soap. Where hard water is used put in a little borax to soften it.
You can remove about all of the soap in tub No. 2 and the third tub or bluing water will do the finishing; note in picture No. 11 that the bird is well rinsed as she comes from the last tub. She has been tossed in the air a few times and caught, which causes her to fly and shakes out most of the water. This tossing requires some practice as you have got to catch her so as to not break her feathers.
She is now ready to have her legs and feet cleaned. The shanks and feet should be quite soft after all this soaking so they can be cleaned without danger of breaking the scales. Picture No. 11 shows how the bird is held while her legs are being soaped. You can use a scrubbing brush on them if you wish. Then take a wooden toothpick or something of the kind and clean the dirt from under the scales. In picture No 12 you see the youngest Halbach taking it all in and he was showing real interest - as the movie people would say: “He is registering interest.”
After the legs are cleaned, if they appear rough and there are old scales that should be removed, they can be booted - that is, grease them with vaseline and bandage them, toes, shanks and all, and sew on the bandage so the bird cannot pick it off. Leave these boots on for a week or so when they can be removed and the old scales will easily come off.
I neglected to say, in regard to soaping, if the soap is not easily removed, see that the feathers are again well soaked and more soap rubbed in. You will note how this works in shampooing your hair. Quite often after the first soaping and rinsing your hair will feel harsh or sticky, but the application of some more soap and a little water will easily remove it and leave it soft and fluffy.
It does not take as long to wash a bird as it does to write this. Mr. Halbach will give a bird a good washing in ten minutes. After the birds are finished, place them in a coop bedded with clean straw and they will soon dry out and plume their feathers. If you have made a good job of the rinsing you will have a brilliant, fluffy thing of beauty.
Be sure your coops are clean, at home, for shipping and at the show. Many a well-washed bird has its appearance ruined by being placed in a dirty coop.