As she came down for breakfast the other day, I could see that the unsightly brown splodge on Arminta’s beautiful white derriere – which had appeared a few days before and which no amount of preening had so far shifted – was a) clinging steadfastly to her and b) getting bigger.
Now if you were a hen, and if you had a large blemish at your rear (in human terms think serious outbreak of pustulate acne) and if you also happened to be a Nordic blonde type of hen, with normally dazzling plumage – then you might in this case wish for someone to rid you of the Monstrous Carbuncle.
I imagined that was what Araminta was thinking, and decided to give her a bath. But imagining it was a lot easier than executing it. Although her bath tub was ready (pink plastic washing up bowl, high sides, nice and deep) and her towels pre-fluffed, there was just one thing missing: Araminta herself.
As soon as I went nonchalantly into the Hen Garden to catch her unawares, Araminta morphed into an Indian Runner duck and proceeded to scuttle lithely around hither and thither, under or through bushes, over or around obstacles. At one point she even attempted to get airborne, despite having had her wings clipped upon purchase. All this was accompanied by her unique quick-fire clucking, so that anyone listening nearby might think we were on machine-gun practice at an army camp. As if to add moral support the other hens ceased bossing her to join her in her laps, so that all five of them were charging hysterically round the garden.
I had no choice but to send for back-up, which fortunately was waiting by the back door in the form of my husband. It is very hard to catch a small hen when you want to. It looks easy on the TV but I can assure you it isn’t. They have perfected the art of the Sudden About Turn which they can achieve more readily than a hulking human. Eventually my husband managed single-handedly to catch her having been given permission to “grab any bit you can”, and Araminta was ushered, still protesting, into the utility room, now known as the Belle Hen Beauty Parlour.
I placed her on the worktop, sitting on a towel next to the sink, and offered her mealworms. She wasn’t sure she could trust me. The mealworms could be a trap. She had spied the large Franke Swiss Pro tap and it did look rather, well, surgical. Now there is no way a chicken is going to be blase about a visit to the house to try out the new hen jacuzzi, but, after managing a few mealworms, whilst we ran warm water into the pink bowl and tested it on bare skin to ascertain its suitability for a chicken’s delicate bottom, Araminta was duly dunked and immersed.
Once in, she seemed to relax and surrender to the moment, as I sluiced warm water over the offending blemish. I think hens quite like a bath, the water part anyway. They are less keen on the getting in and out parts. But when standing in the pink bowl with warm water lapping her nether regions, Araminta let me grapple with the Monstous Poo Carbuncle that was afflicting her. “Oh no”, squirmed my husband, “You’re doing it with your bare hands!” I had realised that and was trying not to dwell on it….
Once de-Carbuncled, Araminta was removed, dripping and much thinner-looking, onto the waiting towel. She then had an extensive but gentle rub down whilst my husband went to fetch the hairdryer. Bathing a hen is much easier with two people, one to hold the hen and soothe it and one to point the hairdryer. Having selected the quietest setting, my husband aimed the hot air while I diffused it away from her delicate pink skin by waving my hand though it as I tweaked her feathers. She quickly turned from something resembling a sodden pink and white wedding hat, to a fluffy marshmallow. If she could have looked in a mirror and said, “That’ll do nicely, thank you,” I feel sure she would have.
I then carried her aloft into the garden to return her to her housemates. They all seemed very impressed as well. Araminta seemed to have a more confident air about her and danced around a bit to show off her new tutu to the admiring crowd. Her visit to the beauty parlour was a success! Not a manicure but definitely a de-manure. It has also given a whole new meaning to her place as “bottom hen”!