A chicken saddle is a protective guard for hens to cover their back during mating. Roosters aren’t gentle lovers. They grab the hen’s feathers with full force. Often, this results in the hen having a complete bald spot on her back.
Let’s take a closer look at chicken saddles, why they work, and how you can make a hen saddle yourself.
Just looking for the chicken saddle pattern? Find it in the download section.
- What is a chicken saddle?
- Why do people use a chicken saddle?
- When to use a chicken saddle?
- Are hen saddles necessary?
- How to make a chicken saddle
- Download: Free Printable Chicken Saddle Pattern
What is a Chicken Saddle?
A chicken saddle is a protective fabric shield that safeguards a hen’s feathers from the claws of a rooster during mating. It’s attached with elastics around the chicken’s feathers. The rooster uses it as a saddle to ride on the hen’s back.
It is by no means just a trenchcoat to keep the chicken warm. Nor is it a means to transform the chicken run into a fashion catwalk.
Why do people use a Chicken Saddle?
When a rooster mounts on a hen’s back, it grasps her feathers with his beak and claws. He pulls out the feathers of the back. The mating process can be pretty terrifying if you’ve never witnessed it. The hens are crawling on the ground. At least it doesn’t take long, but the damage is done.
After a while, the chicken will end up with a complete bald spot on her back. Without the protection of the feather deck, the rooster will grasp the hen’s skin, which is very painful for the chicken. Bald skin is also exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause sunburns.
That’s why people use a chicken saddle to provide an extra layer of protection.
When to use a Chicken Saddle?
Use a chicken saddle whenever you see some bald spots or feather loss on your hens. If this results from mating or pecking, a chicken apron can help. Feather loss usually starts on the tail.
However, feather loss can also be the result of molting. During the molt, a hen is renewing its plumage, and it’s normal to have feather loss and bald spots here and there. Molting is usually around fall. A hen saddle will not help for molting. Check our molting care guide for appropriate care.
Problems typically arise when:
- you have an aggressive rooster
- there are too many roosters for every hen
- there is a lack of space in the chicken coop or run
- a rooster has a preference for a specific hen
- the rooster is much larger than the hens
It’s best to install the chicken saddle before hens start to lose feathers. If you see some bald spots, give them some extra layer of protection.
In nature, chickens don’t have protection. There is typically enough space and hens available for each rooster. But nature can be cruel.
Are Hen Saddles necessary?
No, a chicken saddle is not always necessary. It’s only needed to protect the hen from suffering. You probably don’t need a saddle if you don’t have a rooster. But if you have and you see bald spots on your hen, a chicken saddle is necessary to prevent suffering.
How to Make a Chicken Saddle
It’s pretty easy to sew your own chicken apron, even if you don’t have much sewing experience.
You will need:
- some fabric from old clothes, left-overs from a quilting-supply store, or fat quarters with a print you like
- essential quilting tools like scissors, rulers, needles, and pins
- elastic band
- a sewing machine
- our chicken saddle sewing pattern
A word of warning about the print: don’t go wild with red colors and striking patterns. This might pique the interest of other chickens, and they can start pecking the saddle. It’s better to use a neutral color or a design that blends with the chicken’s feathering pattern.
We’ll go over the entire process step by step. Most of it is straightforward, but some details are interesting to know before starting.
Cut the Fabric and the Chicken Saddle Pattern
If you start from some old clothes, cut some proper parts to use for the saddle. We’re using some old shorts here.
Fold the pattern in half to create two symmetrical parts.
There are two saddles printed on the chicken saddle template: medium (M) and large (L). In this case, we are cutting out the large one. Cut on the line.
Now, fold the fabric and place the template on the fold. Draw the seam allowance on the fabric with a marker or soap.
Now cut out the fabric on the marker with the fabric still folded. This way, you have a completely symmetric hen saddle.
Make sure to attach both sides first, so they stay together while cutting.
For the second piece of fabric, don’t repeat the entire process. Cut out the second part by using the first template as an example. That way, you are sure they are exactly the same size.
The result of this step is two identical pieces of the saddle. Feel free to cut out some extra filling to make the harness more sturdy. If your fabric is light, it can sometimes curl up on the chicken’s back.
Now let’s go to the sewing machine.
Sewing the elastics
We sew the elastics so they will end up inside the saddle. It looks prettier, and it prevents any damage from having the elastic ends on the outside, where the rooster’s claws are.
First, mark the elastics using the chicken saddle pattern as a template.
Cut an elastic at length and sew it on the backside of the fabric. Only sew the outer attachment points and leave the middle open. In the picture above, we will stitch only the lower marker. The elastic needs to move freely in the part of the neck. Make sure to sew on the backside.
This might look a bit counterintuitive, but everything checks out when we will turn the project later on.
It should look like this:
Sewing the outline and turning the project
Now sew the outline using the backsides of the fabric, so the saddle is inside out. Use your sewing machine as a guide for the seam allowance you marked earlier. The pattern calls for 1/2″ or 3/4″, but this ain’t a personalized prom dress, so feel free to use whatever suits you the best.
Leave the neck open as indicated on the pattern. Go back and forth on the ends to strengthen the stops of the sewing line.
Turn around your whole project through the gap on the top. That way, the good sides of the fabric end up on the outside together with the elastic.
Straighten out the seams of the fabric by pulling them out.
Sewing the neck and finishing
To finish the neck, seal the fabric by sewing both parts together.
Fold the fabric around the elastic, so it can freely move around. This will help when you install the saddle and you need to put the chicken’s wings through.
Sew right next to the elastic.
We are using a catch-stitch to sew these parts together.
The result looks like a cross-stitch on the back of the chicken.
The result is a chicken saddle where you can freely move the elastic from left to right.
The final result should look something like this.
We gift-wrapped it as a gift for our hens.
Now it’s your turn. Good luck! We’d love to hear from you, tag us on Instagram!
Free Printable Chicken Saddle Pattern
Feel free to download, use and share our chicken saddle pattern template as much as you want.