The Grooming Process – Primping your Silkie for the Show
It’s a week until the poultry show and it’s time to think about primping, prepping and grooming your birds so that they all look their best. All of them will need to be bathed, toenails trimmed and beaks clipped and filed.
I find that I can bath around three birds a day successfully. On the Monday before the show I will trim toenails and beaks. I always do those two jobs before I start baths. If there is any bleeding the blood will not get into your bath water.
I use a diagonal wire cutter on the toenails. Do not trim too short or you will cut the quick and your bird will begin to bleed. Use an emery board to file down the sharp edges. There should be no sharp points which can scratch and hurt a judge. Remove any dirt or poo from the foot prior to the up coming bath. Hydrogen Peroxide and a cotton ball is good for loosening up all of that dirt especially in the scaly part of the leg. Hydrogen Peroxide is good for about one month after opening the lid. Exposure to air will lesson its abilities.
You will need to clip your bird’s beak if the top beak creates an overbite to the bottom beak. A toenail clipper works best for this job. The beak should come together with no overhang. File it with an emery board to sand away any rough edges.
I will start bathing the silkies on Tuesday starting with with the darkest birds The lighter ones will be done later in the week. I only do three a day because it takes a while to do a thorough job. I also want to make sure that they are dry enough to be placed back outside. Always bath your silkies in the morning so that they will be thoroughly dry by the time they go to sleep at night. It is very important that they do not go to bed damp.
Before starting the bath, I take the hydrogen peroxide and pour it into a small dish. I then take cotton balls and carefully clean around the eyes, beak and crest. Its like a good face washing. The hydrogen peroxide will help to break down the organic dirt and poo that sticks to the feathers. I also use an old tooth brush to clean the scales and toes with the peroxide. You could put some Spray ‘n Wash on the foot feathers if the are very stained.
I bathe my birds in the laundry room sink. It has a spray attachment which I really find handy. I start by gathering all of my supplies. You don’t want to be hunting for things when the bird is already wet and starting to get chilled. I will even have the hair dryer and combs all set and ready to go.
I first fill two large buckets with warm water. I fill them about waist high to the bird. Into one bucket I put about 1/2 cup white vinegar. The other is just plain water for the final rinse but you could add glycerin to it.
I put the bird in the sink and begin soaking the feathers in warm water. If you think that your bird might have mites, I would start with a flea and tick shampoo. I use blue Dawn or Ivory for the first wash. The Dawn dish foam pump is nice because it is easy to use while holding a bird in one hand.
I start with the crest and then work my way down. Dirty areas include the crest, beard, vent and foot feathers. I use the sprayer to carefully rinse the Dawn soap out. To remove the soap from the crest, I tip the bird upside down and then rinse with the sprayer. This way the soap does not drip into its eyes.
White birds can become dingy in color turning a grey or yellow. This can happen from being out in the sunlight too often or being fed corn which discolors white feathers. Adding bluing to your dingy whites will make your whites appear whiter. The effect is not permanent and bluing will wear off.
The second shampoo is either a bluing shampoo if it is a white bird or a color enhancing shampoo if it is a dark colored bird. Horse shampoos offer a variety of colors. I use the Gallop brand but you could also use a human bluing shampoo or just add laundry bluing to the water. Be careful with the bluing shampoo that the bird is soaking wet before applying or you may end up with a dyed blue or purple chicken.
Rinse as much soap off as you can with the sprayer and then place the bird in the bucket with the vinegar rinse. The vinegar will cut the soap so that it does not stick to the feathers.
Place the bird in the final rinse water. Always hang on tightly to your bird. Do not let its beak go under the water line. You can add some glycerin to the final rinse for extra shine. Remove the bird and squeeze as much water out as possible. Then wrap it tightly in a towel to absorb water and help it stay warm. It should look like a silkie mummy.
I leave the bird tucked up in the towel but begin to use the hair dryer on the crest. Use the low setting on the hair dryer so as not to burn the skin of the silkie. I gradually undo more of the towel as I do drying the bird and fluffing the feathers with my fingers. You can also use a comb or slicker brush. It will take a while to get it dry enough that she can finish the job herself. If it is cold out have her stay somewhere warm like a bathtub until she is dry enough. She will finish preening and applying oil from her oil gland. Baths should be at least one full day before leaving for the show to get the natural oils back on the feathers. Add some Vet Rx to shine up the toes and comb.
Place your bird in a separate small holding coop that has fresh shavings or back in her old coop which would also have new shavings put down. Keep her locked up and out of the muddy run. Remove any poo you see so that she is not stepping in it.
Some people put booties on their feathered feet to keep their foot feathers from staining.
Hopefully your bird will stay clean until it is time to pack up and head for the poultry show.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson