Firstly, you need to select the birds which you wish to show.  It is often good to have back up birds if possible  for your stock in case something happens, but this is not always possible.

Preparation begins well before you decide to wash the birds you are going to take.  You need to ensure that they have a good diet, and protected living quarters.  Some colours, eg white, require protection from the sun to minimise yellowing of their feathers, unless they have a strong silver base. 

It is important to have a protective floor for their foot feathers.  As with  many feather footed breeds their foot feathers are delicate and can be damaged by mud, sticks and branches.  Soft floorings like sand and sawdust or wood shavings are perfect for silkies.  Even straw can damage their foot feathers.

Their diet is very important.  The bird needs to be in a good condition, but not too fat.  I feed my silkies a mixed grain mix.  In the winter they get a supplementary feeding of bran mash.  The mash is made up of bran, grated apple and carrot, skim milk powder and lucerne chaff.  I also add a handful of meat meal.  I don't feed this bran mix in the summer as it is too "hot" and can increase the danger of the bird getting too fat and overheating.  However, if you lived in a cooler climate, if may still be alright.  Over here in regional Western Australia it regularly goes above 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, and overweight birds suffer terribly and can even die in the summer heat.

In Western Australia the show season doesn't start until May or June, depending upon which shows you choose to attend.  This does mean you need to be extra cautious when preparing the birds for show as they are being washed in the cooler times of the year.

Washing the Silkie.

Before you wash the silkie, you need to gather together a few things.

Towels, a heater (I use both a fan heater and an oil heater), suitable soap, a nail brush, somewhere for the bird to dry off, bluo (depending on colour of bird), a cup or a jug, and either a sink with hot and cold running water, or several bowls of human skin temperature water.  Our skin temperature is a few degrees lower than that of chickens, so if we can tolerate it, it should not overheat the bird.


I used to use a special pet shampoo that is no longer manufactured, which is most disappointing as I got really good results with it.  Now I use eucalyptus wool wash.  

Once the water is ready, I pick up the bird securely and dip its feet into the water.  If it has VERY dirty feet, you may like to do this outside, or with a separate bowl of water.  I apply a little of the wool wash to the nail brush, and brush in an outward direction, following the line of the feathers, to remove the dirt.  It is important not to RUB the foot feathers back and forth, as this can cause serious damage to the feathers.  Work from near the toe  to the end of the feather.  Once the feathers are free from dirt, clean the soles of the feet with the nail brush too.  When you are satisfied it has clean feet, you are ready to wash the rest of the bird.  I wash feet first this way because  I tend to hold the bird against my body while I clean their feet, and in this way, I do not become excessively wet.

Then the bit the bird is NOT always happy with.  Immerse the bird in warm water in the sink (or bowl).  Be very careful the bird's head does not go under the water.  The  water should be just deep enough to cover the bird's back.  Any deeper and there is danger of the bird drowning.  Use a cup or a jug to pour water over the bird to saturate it.  Do not be surprised if water is initially repelled from the feathers, this is just the natural oils of the silkie's feathers.

At this point I lift the silkie from the water and place on the draining board of the sink.  I apply about a 20c piece of liquid soap to my hand, and then rub it gently into the silkie at its breast, back and bottom.  The bottom can sometimes require extra attention as it may be soiled with droppings.  Be  careful not to rub the wing feathers in the opposite direction to growth as they will break, even when softly silked.      I lather up the bird, and then put it back into the water for an initial rinse.

Once the initial rinse has been done, I will rinse the bird up to three more times to ensure there is no soap left on its feathers.  If it is a white bird, or has white feathers on it, I put a few drops of Bluo into its final rinse.  

Then I wrap the bird up in a towel like a sausage, and rest it next to the oil heater.  This ensures the bird does not get a chill from being wet, in cold weather.  If you do not have an oil heater, you may like to pop the bird into a bathroom lined with newspaper on the floor and a blow heater.  If you do not have either of these options, I would only wash ONE bird at a time and move immediately onto drying the bird.  When I have finished washing the birds, I will blow dry the birds.  their unwrap the drying birds and put them into the bathroom, with the fan heater.

Blow drying the Silkie.

This can be a long and tedious process.  Patience is required to ensure the bird is dried thoroughly.  Silkies are usually quite passive during this process and seem to enjoy having their feathers returned to natural state.  I generally start on one side and work towards the other.  If the dryer is too hot on your hand ruffling the feathers, it is likely to be too hot for the silkie.  It is important to make sure the bird is dry under  its wings, belly and tail.  I work on the underneath of the bird first, and then work on their back.  Its important to fluff up the silk and separate the strands.  You do not want the bird to look like a frizzle however.  Try to dry the bird in the direction of its feathers.  When the bird is almost but not completely dry , put it into the bathroom with a fan heater and let it dry itself.  It will groom itself and start to redistribute the natural oils.  Its a good idea to wash a bird at least a week before you intend to show it.

Then you need to put the bird into a clean, dry environment until you take it to show.

At the show, unpack the bird from its travelling crate, and check its feet and body is still  clean.  Wipe the feet with a cloth, and check its face is clean.  An experienced poultry shower suggested that Ponds night cream is good for the face and comb and legs.  Carefully pop the bird into its show cage and hope for the best.

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