Chicken trouble: bare backs
Spring is for the birds and the bees- and this means our rooster is working overtime. Sometimes he can get a little carried away with his ‘rooster duties’ and end up pulling feathers from the girl’s backs. Once the other hens see bare skin on their sister’s back they can’t resist pecking and pulling out more feathers.
When a rooster mates a hen he climbs on her back, standing on her wings and holding her neck and back feathers in his beak to get in position for transfer of sperm. Sometimes he pulls out a few feathers during the process. Over mating, or aggressive mating, can lead to hens with bare backs and at risk of further wounds and infection if not cared for.
We tried using Blu-Kote Antiseptic spray, which we have had success with in the past when chickens had skin exposed, on our girl’s backs but it did not seem work. What else could we do to protect our chicken’s backs?
The answer- chicken saddles! I searched around and found this article: here from Mother Earth News including a sewing pattern and instructions and decided to try it out.
What you will need:
A basic understanding of sewing is necessary for this project, I used my sewing machine but saddles could easily be hand sewn as well.
- machine washable, breathable fabric
- 1/2 inch elastic
- sew-on velcro
- straight pins
- needle and thread or sewing machine
- saddle pattern (can be printed from Mother Earth article)
I chose fabrics that would match the feather patterns of my flock in order to maintain their camouflage while out foraging the yard. While it is cute to have brightly colored and patterned vests for your chickens their feathers are their first line of protection from predators and their safety is a greater priority than their cuteness (although they do look pretty adorable in their feather-tone vests as well!)
Step by step
- Print out your saddle pattern from the Mother Earth article
2. Cut out the paper pattern and pin it to your fabric, fabric should be folded double so you end up with two saddle shapes after cutting.
3. After cutting, unpin the paper pattern and re pin fabric layers with patterned side facing in
4. Cut two strips of 1/2 inch elastic at 7 inches
5. Pin elastic strips to neckline, so that long end of elastic is hidden between pinned layers of the saddle, as shown in photos below
6. Stitch 1/4 inch seam around the edge of your saddle, leaving a hole (seen on right hand side) unstitched on one side
7. Using hole left unstitched, turn saddle right side out, like a pillow
8. Sew 1/4 inch seam around outer edge, closing up hole used to turn right side out
9. Cut two pieces of both male and female velcro at 1.5 inches and pin female side to body of saddle and male side to the ends of elastic
10. Stitch elastic in place, fasten velcro and be proud of your beautiful and functional new chicken saddle!
Now it is time to try your saddles on the chickens! Saddles sit with the squared edge against the neck and elastic straps go under each wing to secure at the hen’s armpit.
Here is our Jelly Doughnut modeling her off-white saddle on the grass runway:
Chicken saddles are easy to make and can truly make a difference in the health of your flock. We have had our girls wearing saddles for almost a week now and are already seeing new feather growth returning on their backs.