Chicken Saddles for Hens: What You Need to Know

Hen wearing a denim chicken saddle in the backyard

A chicken saddle is more than just a quirky fashion statement for your flock — it plays a huge role in their health and well-being.

With the rise in popularity of backyard chicken keeping, understanding how to use chicken saddles has quite become essential. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you utilize this garment better!

Why Use a Chicken Saddle?

Hen with chicken saddle up close

A chicken saddle is a protective garment designed to cover a hen’s back. It’s made from durable fabric and fits snugly over the hen’s wings to safeguard her skin and feathers from injuries. 

Chicken saddles serve multiple purposes, the most important being protection. 

In flocks, hens sometimes peck at each other, which can lead to wounds or feather loss. These saddles shield vulnerable areas, which reduces the risk of harm. 

They also help in the healing process as they prevent other chickens from pecking at existing injuries.

When to Use a Chicken Saddle?

As we’ve established, putting a saddle on your chicken is not about dressing them up for fun. Here are the best moments to use these protective garments for your flock’s benefit.

During Mating Season

Mating season can be rough for hens. Roosters often grab onto the hen’s back feathers, which can lead to injuries. 

Putting saddles on your hens during this time can save them from a lot of discomfort. It’s like giving them a little shield against the rooster’s advances.

Fun Fact: In chicken reproduction, males and females briefly press their cloacas together to transfer sperm. This is called “cloacal kiss.” 

This quick act ensures the fertilization of eggs without the need for external reproductive organs.

If You Notice Feather Pecking

Feather pecking is a sign of stress or boredom in chickens and can quickly escalate and cause harm. When you see this happening, it’s time to bring out the chicken saddles. 

They protect the pecked hen from further damage and give her feathers a chance to regrow without interruption.

After an Injury

When a hen gets hurt, her flock mates might peck at the wound, which can make it worse. 

A chicken saddle covers the injury and keeps it clean and safe from curious beaks. It’s like a band-aid that allows healing in peace.

During Extreme Weather

Chicken saddles can provide extra comfort in the chill of winter or the blaze of summer. In cold months, they can really provide warmth. Meanwhile, in hot weather, breathable saddles help keep hens cool. 

Choosing the Right Chicken Saddle

White hen wearing a denim chicken saddle

When selecting the ideal chicken saddle, focus on several key aspects to ensure you choose a product that offers both protection and comfort. Here’s what to keep in mind when choosing the right chicken saddle:

  • Durability: Opt for saddles made from tough, long-lasting materials that can endure outdoor conditions and daily chicken activities.
  • Adjustability: Ensure the saddle can be easily adjusted to fit different sizes and shapes of hens so it can provide a snug yet comfortable fit.
  • Comfort: Look for designs that prioritize the hen’s comfort, with soft linings and materials that prevent chafing and irritation.
  • Ease of Use: The best saddles are those that are straightforward to put on and remove. This simplifies the process for you and reduces stress for your chickens.

Considering these crucial factors, there are a few standout choices worth mentioning. 

For instance, the Durable Hen Saddles by Down Under Designs on Amazon are known for their robust construction and suitability for various weather conditions. 

Meanwhile, for a blend of function and style, the Cute Chicken Saddles by Shiitake Creek on Etsy feature playful designs with waterproof and comfortable materials.

How to Put a Chicken Saddle on a Hen Properly

Putting a chicken saddle on a hen might seem tricky at first, but it’s a straightforward process once you get the hang of it. Follow these steps to make sure your hen’s saddle fits just right:

Step 1: Calmly Hold Your Hen

Start by gently picking up your hen and holding her firmly yet gently to keep her calm. It’s important to make this experience as stress-free as possible for her.

When I first started using chicken saddles, I found that speaking in a soothing voice directly impacts the hens’ stress levels and makes them more receptive to wearing the saddle. 

This approach minimizes the discomfort of hens and also enhances our bond, which simplifies saddle-fitting.

Step 2: Position the Saddle

With your hen in your lap or securely under one arm, place the saddle on her back and make sure it’s centered. 

The saddle should sit comfortably between her wings, covering the areas most prone to pecking or rooster damage.

Step 3: Secure the Straps

Most chicken saddles come with straps that fasten around the hen’s wings. Carefully bring each strap under her wing and fasten it on the opposite side. 

Ensure the straps are snug but not too tight; you should be able to slide a finger underneath comfortably.

Step 4: Adjust for Comfort

After securing the saddle, check to make sure it’s not restricting your hen’s movement or causing any discomfort. 

Adjust as necessary and pay close attention to how she walks and behaves with it on. A well-fitted saddle will stay in place without sliding off or tilting to one side.

How Often Should You Clean and Replace a Chicken Saddle?

Hen sitting with a denim chicken saddle

As a general rule, you need to inspect and clean the chicken saddle every week and consider replacing it every few months or when it shows signs of wear and tear.

A clean saddle prevents the buildup of dirt and bacteria, which can lead to skin irritation or infection

Moreover, regular cleaning also gives you the chance to inspect the saddle for damage. Look for any tears, frayed edges, or signs of wear that could affect its function. 

If the saddle is made of machine-washable materials, you can easily clean it in the washing machine. For others, a gentle hand wash will do the trick.

Replacing the saddle depends on how well it holds up to daily use and the environment. 

Saddles exposed to harsh conditions or constant pecking may need to be replaced more frequently. Always have a spare saddle on hand so you can swap them out without delay.

How to Make a Hen Saddle Yourself

With some basic sewing skills and a few materials, you can create a durable and comfortable saddle for your hen. Here are some key steps to follow so you can create a hen saddle yourself: 

Step 1: Gather Materials

You’ll need durable fabric like cotton or canvas for the outer layer, soft fabric like fleece for the lining, velcro or snaps for fastening, and basic sewing supplies. 

Choose materials that are easy to wash and can withstand outdoor conditions.

Step 2: Cut the Fabric

Measure your hen from neck to tail and across her back to determine the size of the saddle. 

Draw a pattern on paper first, resembling a figure-8 to fit around the wings, then cut your fabrics according to this pattern. Remember to add a bit extra for seam allowances.

Step 3: Sew the Layers Together

Place the outer and lining fabrics right sides together and sew around the edges, leaving an opening for turning. 

Clip the curves and corners to ensure a smooth edge when turned right side out. Then, turn the saddle right side out and press it flat.

Step 4: Add Fastenings

Attach velcro or snaps to the straps and ensure they’re positioned to easily secure the saddle on the hen without causing discomfort. 

After which, secure the fastenings and check for any loose threads or potential irritants to your hen.

FAQs About Chicken Saddles

Three hens with chicken saddles
Image credit: braindrainbaddie / Instagram

Do Chicken Saddles Really Work?

Yes, chicken saddles are effective in providing protection to hens. They are designed to shield the back of the hen from injuries that can occur from pecking by other chickens or the claws and spurs of roosters during mating. 

Are Chicken Saddles Safe?

Chicken saddles are safe for hens when used correctly. They are made from soft, breathable materials that do not harm the skin or feathers of the hen. However, it’s important to ensure that the saddle fits properly.

How Long Should Chickens Wear Saddles?

Chickens should wear saddles as long as necessary to protect against injuries or during healing, but it’s crucial to regularly check under the saddle every few days for any skin issues or discomfort. 

Can I Use a Chicken Saddle for a Rooster?

Yes, you can use a chicken saddle for a rooster if he has back injuries or is losing feathers due to pecking. 

However, you need to ensure the saddle is appropriately sized and adjusted for the rooster’s larger frame to avoid any discomfort or restriction of movement.

Have you ever tried using chicken saddles in your flock? Share your experiences in the comments below! Feel free to ask questions and react to this guide, too!

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