For new chicken keepers, the list of do’s and don’ts can be overwhelming. Eventually, you what other chicken keepers do, or don’t do, and you fall into a style and rhythm all your own.
When we came across the Decker Face Brush for Horses and realized chicken keepers were using it to groom their flocks, we wanted to learn more about chicken grooming in general, and determine if this was an item we should include in our monthly supply boxes for chicken keepers.
Now, we know there are some things we need to do for our flock, like provide them with adequate shelter from weather, protection from predators, food and water. We also know that when it comes to grooming, chickens take on the most important task themselves – dust bathing.
Dust bathing is how chickens keep themselves clean. They settle themselves into a dry area of sand or dirt, and use their wings to flip that sand or dirt deep into their feathers. This makes an inhospitable environment for parasites, lice, and mites and helps them ward off infections. Because they do this all on their own if provided a location in the coop or while free ranging to do so, they don’t need regular baths. Sometimes a bath is required though, like if they get excessively muddy, have feces caked onto their feathers, or if injured.
So if, for the most part, chickens are able to keep themselves clean, do they need to be brushed?
Some folks brush their chickens if they are a loose-feather breed, like Silkies, Cochins, or Orpingtons. Some sources recommend brushing Silkies once a week to keep their feathers fluffy and dry, since Silkie feathers aren’t as water-resistant as flat-laying feathers.
Others brush their chickens if they plan on showing them at a poultry show. Here are some tips for preparing chickens for showing.
Reasons to Brush Your Chickens
If you aren’t showing your chickens, and you don’t keep silkies, there are other reasons to brush your birds.
- Brushing with a soft brush like the Decker removes dried-on dust and debris. Regular brushing can keep dirt and feces from building up on feathers, especially around the vent. It’s soft enough that it can be used on sensitive areas like the face, come, wattles, and vent.
- Brushing gives you the opportunity to look closely at the feathers, and to notice any signs of an infestation, like sores or tiny black, white, or red moving insects. Other signs are excessive scratching or biting of feathers, matted or patchy feathers, or general restlessness.
- A soft brush like the Decker brush can be used to safely remove debris when giving a chicken a bath.
- Brushing gives you a reason to handle your chickens and build trust. Chickens see us as predators until we show them we are not. If they become used to being handled, it will be easier to care for them in times of injury or transport.
- Brushing helps distribute the chicken’s natural oil released from the uropygial gland (better known as the preen gland) across the feathers. The oil helps keep the feathers clean and dry by repelling dirt and water.
- Brushing can be calming for chickens once they realize they’re not being harmed. Our chickens will often fall asleep while the kids brush them. Brushing can be a calming activity for the chicken keeper as well!
Check out our oldest lady, Lemon, enjoying a brush sesh:
After learning more about brushing chickens, we decided the Decker brush was a product we wanted to include in our August 2021 Henny+Roo monthly box for chicken keepers, and hope our subscribers enjoy brushing their chickens as much as we do. We also have the brush available for purchase without a subscription at hennyandroo.com.