As a fairly new chicken owner I am still learning the ins and outs of chicken ownership. Before purchasing chicks I researched and read about different breeds, housing requirements, dietary needs, and basic chicken care until I was blue in the face, but there are some things you are just going to learn as you are faced with them.
For example, you will see some odd eggs. One day I found a teeny, tiny egg in our nesting boxes and assumed one of the quail that had been hanging around must have laid it there. However, that little theory was busted one day when I found another pint-sized egg and the coop had only been open to the run, thus no quail had access to the coop. Upon doing a little research I found out what we had was referred to as a “fairy” egg, rooster egg, or ever so lovingly a fart egg, and it was being laid by one of our full grown laying hens.
Another chicken habit I have become accustomed to is their mating ritual. I have learning along the way some common and uncommon rooster behaviors when it comes to how he treats his ladies, and the importance of not having too many of the little boogers around (the roosters that is…one can never have too many hens). If you are going to have roosters the ratio needs to be around 1 rooster to about 12 hens. Needless to say we had a few too many roos, partially because we were trying to figure out which one we wanted to keep, and having too many was hard on our ladies. The boys were in full-time competition with each other and a few of our hens seemed to be the most desired. Long story short after seeing a few hens loosing feathers on their head and back we made our decision quickly and culled the remaining roos. Rooster Joe rules the roost out here and we have been very happy with our decision to keep him. I will address common and uncommon rooster behavior in a coming post, but now on to how we helped our poor hens and their feather-less backs.
Chicken saddles… yes, you heard right although I think the terminology is a bit demeaning considering. You may prefer the term chicken apron, but to each is their own. At first I thought once we culled the roos the hens would start to regrow new feathers and for the most part they did, except one. Her back became raw, irritated, and I think even sunburned. I had tried spraying it with Vetricyn and putting some sunscreen on her but neither seemed to work so back to the books and chicken saddle it was.
There are several places you can purchase these saddles, but upon looking at a few online I figured I could whip some up fairly easy.
So without further adieu, how to sew a chicken saddle
You will need:
- 12” of ¼” elastic (get it here)
- An old pair of denim jeans
- 8 ½” by 8 ½” square of duck or canvas type printed fabric
- Fabric scissors (I like these)
- Coordinating thread (I like grey because it goes with about everything)
Option 2: If you choose, the entire chicken saddle can be made with denim or can also be made with cotton fabric with an interfacing sewn in the middle. I just used what I had on hand.
These saddles will fit a medium-sized chicken including breeds like Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, and Black Australorp. If you have larger or smaller breeds you will need to adjust the size of your saddle.
- Cut an 8 ½” by 8 ½” square of both denim and duck cloth
- Pin the two squares right sides together, and fold in half
- On the open end, measure 6 ½” from the bottom and put a small mark on the edge of the cloth
- At the top, from the fold, measure 1 ½” and put another small mark on the edge of the cloth.
- Now draw a half circle from one mark to the other and cut out the half circle using fabric scissors.
- Unfold and unpin the pieces
- Sew a small hem on the half circle on each piece of fabric (should be 4 half circle hems)
- Pin the two pieces with right sides together and sew across the 3” top
- Sew the bottom half (from the hem, down) using a ½” seam allowance, make sure to leave about a 4” opening at the bottom so you can turn the chicken saddle right side out.
- Cut the bottom two corners of the chicken saddle to remove excess fabric, make sure to not cut into the stitch.
- Turn the chicken saddle right side out and straighten fabric and push out corners. (Using chop sticks to push out the corners works really well.)
- Next, pin the elastic in place
- Finally, topstitch around the outer perimeter of the chicken saddle, leaving the top ¼” free for the elastic to be able to be pulled from one side to the other.
That’s it, you now have a chicken saddle, time to go catch a chicken.
Putting on your chicken saddle
- Catch the chicken. I find waiting until your chickens are on the roost is the easiest time to catch them as they are a little more sedate. **DISCLAIMER: This chicken is mostly blind due to a dog attack. She is very well taken care of and I can assure you does not suffer despite her appearance.**
- Pull elastic completely around a wing of the chicken and repeat with the other wing.
- Straighten up the saddle and put her back on the roost.
It may take your chicken a day or so to get used to the saddle, but they no doubt will benefit from its protection.
If you have any questions, comments, or other chicken adventures, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for taking time to read this post.