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Hen Saddles for Some Fowl Play

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) - (Rigth) Saddle covering Treading Area

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?

Ouch, again.

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!

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