Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When I first heard the term chicken saddles, the whole idea seemed absolutely preposterous to me. Hearing the word, I immediately pictured a miniature horse saddle strapped around one of my chickens. It made absolutely no sense. Even a rat would be hard pressed to ride a chicken, let alone something bigger. Of course, this is not at all what a chicken saddle is actually used for. Although a chicken saddle is placed on their backs, it is actually used to protect a hen's back when roosters get a bit rough during mating.
Having two roosters in my flock, this became an evident problem for one of my hens in particular as my chickens matured. By spring, her back was bare and laden with scrapes and scabs. She happened to be one of the smartest chickens in the flock, always seeming to find a way out of the fence and into the garden. For a long time, I puzzled over why she always separated herself from the other chickens. I worried that a hawk would find her easy to snatch. I then realized that she did this to stay away from the roosters. As I watched her to confirm this fact, I found that she was miserable. When I was working in the garden, the hen would hide behind me when a rooster neared her. I knew that a chicken saddle would be the easiest solution.
Unfortunately, at the time, my sewing machine and fabric was lost in an overwhelming pile of boxes. I needed to find a way to make a no-sew chicken saddle with materials that I had accessible to me at the time.
Being a farmer, most of my clothes are stained from paint, grass and dirt. I found such a pair of jeans that I wore when I was doing especially messy jobs, such as painting the barn and building the chicken coop. The jeans were small on me and never very comfortable, so I decided to use them to make an emergency chicken saddle until I could make I more substantial version.
Starting at the bottom of the pants, I cut along the middle of the seam on one of the legs, working my way up. I chose to cut at the seam to prevent the fabric from fraying. I stopped when I reached about a foot up the pant and then cut across to sever the material from the rest of the jeans. You may want to adjust this length depending on the size of your hen. I always prefer to start much larger than necessary just in case a problem arises.
At this time, I checked the length on my hen to ensure the size correctly matched the hen’s back. I normally measure this by holding the fabric against her back. The end of the saddle (the seam on the bottom of the jeans) should fall about a quarter over the hens tail maybe a little more. The front should rest at the bottom of the hen's neck. Shorten if necessary, but do so sparingly. If the fabric is shortened too much, it will fray quickly and eventually fall apart.
On the top of that saddle, about three inches from the edge on both sides, I cut a slit for the wings to go through. Keep the slits as small as possible because this is what secures the saddle to the hen. If the holes are too large, it is very likely that the saddle will fall off frequently. Before cutting these holes, you might benefit by measuring the space between the bases of the wings. The space between the slits should be identical to this measurement.
Finally you can try the chicken saddle on your hen by gently working her wings through the slits. Be careful not to damage her feathers. I often find that the slits for the wings usually tend to be a bit small so I slowly adjust the size using scissors. Do not tear the fabric to increase the size of the holes. This will encourage fraying and additional tearing to occur.
Although this is by no means a permanent option, this is a quick effective method to help keep your hens happy and safe!
I am a young farmer and photographer committed to growing organically and protecting the environment.