Chicken Saddles 101: What, Why & When?
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.
We’ll take a look at chicken saddles, why people use them, when to use them and whether it’s necessary for your hens:
- What is a chicken saddle?
- Why do people use a chicken saddle?
- When to use a chicken saddle?
- Are hen saddles necessary?
- Where can I get a chicken saddle?
- What to look out for when choosing a chicken saddle?
Here is an unfortunate hen that did not wear a saddle:
She lost all the feathers on her back. Luckily enough, a chicken saddle can prevent this kind of damage.
What is a Chicken Saddle?
A chicken saddle is a protective fabric shield that safeguards a hen’s feathers from a rooster’s claws 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 its 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 renews its plumage, and it’s normal to have feather loss and bald spots here and there. Molting usually starts around fall. A hen saddle will not help with 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 hen
It’s best to install the chicken saddle before hens start to lose feathers. If you see some bald spots, give them an 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.
Where Can I get a Hen Saddle?
There are several ways to get a chicken saddle:
- there are several commercial saddles on the market
- there are plenty of people sewing hen saddles on platforms like Etsy
- you can make your own chicken saddle with a chicken saddle pattern
We provide a couple of chicken saddle patterns that you can use:
- a basic chicken saddle pattern for regular fowl (medium to large)
- a chicken saddle pattern for bantams and small chickens
- a chicken saddle pattern for large fowl and giant chickens
- a chicken saddle pattern with wing protectors and tail guard
All patterns come with adjustable elastics that make it easy to put the saddle on.
What to Look Out for When Choosing a Chicken Saddle?
There are some things to look for when you are choosing a chicken saddle or creating one of your own:
- The chicken saddle should be the right size for your birds
- The chicken saddle should provide wing and tail protection if your birds need it
- The chicken saddle must be easy to put on. Our chicken saddle patterns have adjustable elastics that can move freely from left to right.
- The fabric must be flexible enough to follow the hen’s body but firm enough to withstand the rooster’s claws.
- The fabric must have some weight and robustness. If you sew a saddle yourself, you can add some extra filling to make the harness more sturdy.
- You can’t go willy-nilly with flashy colors and striking patterns. These might pique the interest of other chickens, and they can start pecking the saddle. Choose a neutral color or a design that blends in well with the chicken’s feathering pattern.
A chicken saddle is an essential protective shield that prevents the rooster from damaging your hen’s back during mating. It prevents the hen from getting bald spots.
Many saddles are available on commercial marketing, but you can always create your own with one of our chicken saddle patterns. Ensure the saddle is rigid enough and easy to apply, and opt for wing protection and tail guard if needed.
If you decide to make your own saddle:
- How to make your own chicken saddle
- Collection of Free Chicken Saddle Patterns
Some other articles we mentioned here: