When I started this blog I promised you the ups and the downs of chicken keeping. So far the experience has been mainly a positive one, and if you'd like to maintain this illusion then you might want to skip this post!
As with all pets, hens sometimes need some T.L.C. To cut a long story short, Fizzy seems to have an issue with cleanliness around her bottom. This doesn't seem to be an uncommon problem and everyone has a different suggestion as to the cause. It could be a sign of illness (usually due to diarrhoea - not a problem here) or mites or lice (no signs that we can see). It could also be because the hen is sleeping on the floor rather than on a perch (if any of ours are guilty of this it would be Pepper), or just because they have lots of fluffy feathers. As Fizzy is an Orpington (a classically fluffy breed), we think that general fluff might be the problem. Fortunately Lemon (also a very fluffy hen) has avoided this so far - one bird at a time is quite enough!
The first time this happened we kept an eye on her for a while to see if it would improve, but made a final decision that we would need to step in one sunny Saturday while the girls were all free ranging in the garden. Twenty minutes of chaos later we had four very flustered hens and one very unhappy Fizzy! Having caught her, we covered her with a towel to keep her calm, and carefully cleaned everything with a bowl of warm water and a lot of patience. Fizzy was well rewarded with grapes and everything went back to normal.
Six weeks later and we're back where we started - but a little wiser this time. We plucked Fizzy from the coop with a lot less fuss and took her inside as the weather is now much colder. Having cleaned everything again we also trimmed the feathers in that region. We checked for any signs as to why this is happening, but can't see anything, so we have to assume that it might just be a perpetual problem.
I have heard rumour that this sort of thing can improve as they get older, and that other chickens in the flock will help with grooming hard to reach areas. Until such time though I think we'll have to try to maintain a preventative approach and keep things well-trimmed. This certainly wasn't something I bargained on when getting chickens!