I think most people that own chickens have heard of chicken saddles. Chicken saddles are fabric "vests" you can put on hens that are suffering from overly, ummm, romantic roosters. The rooster’s constant attention causes chickens to end up losing feathers on their back, which leads to irritated and abraded skin, which leads to bleeding and then things really go south from there: the dreaded cannibal chickens. Putting the saddle on the chicken protects them from the rooster's claws AND the cannibals.
Here’s Jenny modeling her new saddle.
While I don't have roosters, I have needed chickens saddles in the past to protect injured chickens. The most memorable time was when a coyote, in broad daylight, attacked my hens. One of the hens was grabbed by the back, but the coyote dropped her when my son chased it away. She had a 3-4" gash across her back, wing to wing, another gash lower on one side—but for the most part seemed okay other than being in shock. I rushed her to my (horse!) vet, who cleaned and stitched up her wounds. I kept her indoors in a dog kennel for several days while she recovered and regained her strength. But I knew that the sooner I'd introduce her to the flock, the better. And if the other hens caught sight of her wounds and stitches, it would be all over.
Not having the time to look for and buy a chicken saddle on the internet, I threw a very crude one together in about 15 minutes, saw that it kept her wounds hidden and protected and eventually made myself a pattern so I could make more saddles.
So, whether your problem is roosters, wounded chickens or you just like to dress up your chickens, I'm sharing my pattern and basic instructions. I suppose you could do all the sewing by hand if you had to, it would just take less time using a sewing machine. You can download my pattern for free. You don't have to buy fabric, I suppose repurposing clothing, an old pillow case or even cotton towels would work. Depending on the weight/thickness of the fabric you use, you could do without the interfacing, which adds thickness and body to the saddle.
• Printout of the pattern
• lightweight interfacing (iron-on preferable) or an extra layer of fabric
• sewing machine
• straight pins
• 12 inches of 1/2-inch elastic
• 2 1-inch pieces of Velcro.
1. Download, print and cut out the pattern.
2. Using the pattern, cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of interfacing (iron-on is nice) or make three layers of fabric if you don’t have interfacing.
Pin the pattern to the fabric & cut.
3. Pin all three pieces together (right sides facing out, you can iron in interfacing if that's what you're using)
4. Pin elastic through neck edge of fabric.
5. Pin 1-inch of loop Velcro to each side of saddle where marked on pattern.
6. Pin 5/8-inch piece of hook Velcro to ends of elastic.
All pinned together, ready to sew!
Sew all pieces together (using a zigzag stitch is preferable around the raw edges, sewing twice around is even better)
Done! I used red thread here so you could see it better.
That's it, you’re done! Now just grab a chicken, place the saddle on her back, run the elastic under her wings, front to back, and attach elastic ends to the saddle with velcro. You now have a safe and very fashionable chicken!
Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado. When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban Farmer. Read all of Deb's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here
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