Treading isn’t fun. Especially if you’re the hen…the treadee. What is treading? When
roosters mount females to show how much they love them, the crowing cowboy has
a hard time staying on. Hen feathers are slippery. The rooster grabs the back of the
hen’s head feathers and scrambles onto her back – this is what causes the feathers
to get pulled out. Ouch! Hen saddles help prevent the rooster’s feet from catching
on her feathers. Yay! These saddles are more than just quaint accessories, they help
stave off and prevent serious (even life-threatening) injuries.
Hens that are getting threadbare backs are in serious trouble. You will need to
address the issue quickly as real injuries can and do happen. One option is to
separate the rooster from the hen being given too much attention. But with hen
saddles, or aprons, you can keep the family together.
Treading on the (Left) - (Right) Saddle covering Treading area
Signs of treading:
• Shredded or frayed feathers on the hen’s back
• Patches of feathers missing from the wing covers, or around the rump area
• Bare spots on the hen’s back, rump and/or wing covers
• Puncture wounds that are fresh, or that are dried over
When feather loss is ignored, the hen will lose most of her feathers in these areas
and the thin skin will be exposed. She is now at risk for scratch wounds, severe
lacerations from the rooster’s nails, sunburn and infections. Bad news!! The feather
pulling is quite painful for the hen – can you imagine getting your hair pulled out?
If you are handy with some basic sewing you can whip up a few of these saddles at
home. This is the best option for those raising large flocks of birds. Even in large
flocks, you may notice the roosters having preferred mates, and some hens just have
tender feathers (leghorns are thin feathered).
Often, the rooster will slip and begin scraping at the wing feathers. Make or
purchase wing guards for these situations. You can simply sew on a Velcro patch to
the saddle. That way you can add or remove the wing panels as needed.
Fitting the saddle
Most saddles fit through wing loops. You slip the wing through the loop, set the
saddle into place on the hen’s back, and then slide the other wing through the
opposite loop. You can also make a saddle with a strap that wraps around the hen’s
body, just under the wings. Some of the “waist” saddles slide – it depends on your
hen’s shape. You may want to sew the elastic loop versions into a fixed position to
prevent the elastic from pulling through the saddle and getting uncomfortably tight
around the hen’s wing.
Hen (Pearl) with"Toss Up the Garden" Saddle Wing Protector on
Saddles can also be purchased. Fowl Play has a fun selection of whimsical fabrics to
suit your hen’s personality. If you only have a few birds, purchasing these
fashionable outfits makes sense. These saddles are hard wearing, washable and
ready-to- go! Your fashion forward hens will be delighted with the runway perfect,
Fowl Play saddle selections. The outfits slip over the hen’s wings and sit at her
shoulders. Each elastic strap is covered with fabric ensuring a comfortable fit. This
is great! Some saddles are made with just plain elastic, and this can be
uncomfortable for the hen (see note).
Of course, for special occasions…or for those hens requiring haute couture, Fowl
Play has a line of irresistible chicken dresses. The roosters will go crazy. And…they
sure can, because the hens will be protected in style!
Hen (Molly) with "Don't Fence Me In" saddle on
Caring for an injured hen and checking for injuries
If you notice that your hen has been wounded, immediately separate her from the
roosters. Clean and treat the wound. A diluted tincture of calendula is ideal, but any
disinfectant is good. Never use antibiotics with lidocaine (or anything with “caine”)
as an ingredient. Usually, the label will list the product as having a painkiller
(anesthetic). This is a toxic compound for birds.
Chickens heal quickly. Keep an eye on the wound and immediately consult a
veterinarian if you notice that the edges are not closing, healing or things are not
looking “right.” She may need antibiotics or sutures. Wound infections can quickly
become life threatening, requiring surgical intervention.
Sometimes noticing wounds in birds is difficult. They clean themselves often and
their feathers hide wounds. Always spend some time inspecting each bird. Check
under their wings for wounds, as this area can be cut by the rooster during mating
and some of these cuts can be pretty nasty.
Treading is no fun, but dressing up your hens in comfortable protective gear that is
also fashionable, can’t be beat. We want to hear from you and your feathered
fashion plates. Grab your camera and get some cute pictures of the hen saddles and
dresses your birds are sporting this season!
Note: If you already have saddles made with the slip-through, plain elastic strap, there is something you can do. Cut off the elastics. Purchase velcro wrist or ankle straps at the drugstore (athletic wrist protectors with the adjustable Velcro closure). Cut the strap into a thin strip. This will be your wing strap. Sew this in the same place as the old strap leaving one end free. Sew a Velcro patch to the neck section of the saddle. Voila. You now have a safer and more adjustable saddle!