In this article, I will answer the question, what are chicken saddles? I find it necessary to protect my chickens from predators or anything that might endanger them. I also strive to keep them safe against injuries caused by their more aggressive counterparts. That is why I reach out to chicken saddles to solve this problem. This piece of cloth comes in handy to protect chickens feathers and back against the treading of roosters.
What else do you need to know about chicken saddles? Well, there is more to learn about chicken saddles than just being a piece of cloth on your hen’s back. These “backpacks” are a reliable lifesaver if you have a large flock of backyard chickens.
Chicken saddles are also known as hen aprons. They are helpful when you are keeping a rooster alongside your hens. But if you don’t have a male chicken in your backyard, chicken saddles will not be of any use.
If you have ever observed chicken mating, you should understand why you need hen aprons. The whole scene is usually disturbing, and you might think that roosters and hens are in a fierce battle.
Roosters are not as gentle as you may think when they mate. They chase around their target hens, wrestle them down and vigorously mount them from the back. In the process of doing so, they inflict pain on their victims. They also pluck feathers from the hens’ back, leaving them bare and vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
Feather Damage in Hens
Hens experience feather damage in many different ways. But the leading cause of this problem is the roosters during mating time. Roosters have large feet with sharp talons. Their spurs are also long and sharp. All these structures dig into the hen’s back when mating. In the process, they remove features from the back, exposing bare skin.
Feathers on chickens or other birds are there to fluff and protect. But with repeated abrasions, they cannot stay in place. They will likely come out.
The mating behavior of roosters can make the hens lose their back feathers easily. Regardless of the feathers falling out, the same hens will still mate severally. Their barebacks will bear the brunt of brutality imposed on them by roosters.
Some chickens seem to experience lighter feathering. So they lose their feathers faster than others. Besides, sunlight tends to burn their tender skin while roaming the yard. A few manage to maintain a downy covering. Such cases are not healthy for your birds. This calls for drastic measures to protect your chickens against injury and bad weather.
The Need for Chicken Saddles
Chicken saddles are explicitly designed to protect hens against feather loss. Mostly the loss of feathers starts at the tail moving towards the back and neck. You can take a look at the tail feathers to find out if your birds are losing their feathers.
However, don’t confuse this physical change with molting. Unless it is molting season, feather loss on your hen’s back is probably caused by mating. Molt starts towards the end of summer and peaks at the start of the winter season. This phenomenon is primarily driven by changes in seasons.
The new feathers or downy coat gets ready to offer insulation to your chickens throughout the colder weather. Any feather loss outside winter is most likely caused by roosters. And this is a common occurrence in spring.
The mating season kicks off as days get longer. This is the right time to check out your hens to know if they are losing feathers or not. If you find that there is a hen experiencing feather loss, you should start using a chicken saddle to keep its back safe.
Using good quality chicken saddles can protect the feathers on your birds before they fall off. You can purchase these protective hen aprons or make your own using readily available materials. Sewing saddles will not only protect your hens but also save you some money.
The best thing about using these backpacks is that your chickens will rarely notice that they are wearing them. But that is not the main issue here. The real hurdle lies in getting your hen to wear them. As usual, they will protest and engage you in running battles before you get hold of them.
Depending on how hot or cold the weather is, your hens might object to being held and dressed in saddles. Once they are on their backs, your birds will fold their wings and move around comfortably.
Sometimes you may see the saddles rolling up your hens’ back, but that should not worry you. Just flip them back down, and they will stay in place to protect your hens in all situations.
When to Use the Chicken Saddles
The chicken saddles play a critical role in keeping your hens’ tender skin safe during mating season. Without protecting their backs, your hens will sustain severe injuries from frequent mating with different roosters.
Towards the end of summertime, male chickens become less active. The molting process starts at this time to prepare your birds for the cold weather.
In the course of molting, new feathers grow to replace the older ones. When this happens, just remove the chicken saddles from the backs of your hens. If you don’t get out of these backpacks, they may interfere with the growth of new feathers.
Before you remove the saddles, make sure that any overzealous rooster is confined to protect your hens. On the other hand, you may remove the saddles during the night and put them on during the daytime.
How to Make Your Own Chicken Saddle
If you don’t have time to design and sew your own chicken saddle, you can just buy it. That’s only if sewing some pieces together is not your option.
But you can still make some simple saddles at home using simple materials. The chicken saddle DIY will save you time and money in the long run. Find the best pattern and use it to make several hen aprons for your birds.
- Here is the procedure to follow when making chicken saddles:
- You can look for a common pattern to use or make your own.
- Just cut two pieces of cloth from cotton fabric.
- Also, cut a piece of elastic material at least 12 inches in length.
- Join the two pieces together to form a hen saddle.
- Stitch them and leave an opening for turning the apron.
- Use the quarter-inch seam allowance while clipping the curves for easy turning of the completed saddle.
- Once you are done with sewing the entire saddle, turn it to the right side.
- Pull it through the opening to make the turning effortless.
- Lay the saddle on a flat surface and press it gently.
- Later, turn the opening or raw edges to face inside.
- Get hold of the top side and fold it carefully for the elastic casing.
- Prepare the casing for the elastic band by sewing the body part right at the top.
- Check again to see whether the elastic casing can accommodate the elastic band.
- Reach out for the elastic band and insert it through the casing. Make sure to attach it to both sides of the chicken saddle before stitching it in place.
- Alternatively, you may need a safety pin to help you insert the elastic band through the casing.
Single and Double Strap Chicken Saddles
You should know the differences between the two styles of chicken saddles. The single-strap style allows you to secure a saddle to the chicken, just like a backpack. All you have to do is to pull the loop on the left side of the strap over the hen’s left-wing.
Repeat the same procedure to the right-wing using the right loop. Look around to ensure that both straps are not held up in the feathers. Adjust the apron to allow it to sit squarely and comfortably on your hen.
When it comes to the double strap apron, the procedure to put it on your chicken is different. You need to secure it by pulling it carefully over your hen’s head. The head, however, should go through the loops created by intersecting the two straps. Pull each strap over the wing (right or left). While pulling the straps, place the finger between the chicken’s throat and the straps to avoid choking it.
What should I do if the chicken saddle is not laying flat? Recheck the saddle to find out what might be causing it not to lay flat on the back. Most likely, the apron is too small or too large for your hen. So you should look for the right model or size that can fit your hen well.
What size of the chicken saddle is appropriate for my chicken? When choosing the saddles for your birds, check the size. Large fits are suitable for smaller standard-sized chickens. The extra-large is ideal for larger standard-sized hens.
Chicken saddle or hen aprons are mainly used to protect hens against injuries caused by roosters when mating. These aprons prevent the loss of feathers from the back during the mating season. You can make your own saddles at home or buy them from your local poultry stores.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!