Being the leader of a 4-H livestock club means I get asked questions from time to time about various animal ailments. Sometimes I know the answer, sometimes I don't—but most of the time if I don't, I do at least know someone who may!
Such was the case with a problem that a new member mentioned yesterday. One of his chickens had lost the feathers on her back and was being pecked by the other hens as a result. The problem with chickens is once one of them has a red, bare spot, the others won't leave it alone. The term "hen-pecked" has a basis in truth, though it usually doesn't apply to their behavior towards roosters, but instead other hens!
We had the same problem last year, and we had tried all kinds of anti-peck ointments with little positive result. Luckily my friend Robin, who is a chicken expert, happened to see them one day and told me what I needed was chicken saddles.
Yes. That is quite an image that comes to mind. But they aren't what you think.
Chicken saddles are little shaped pieces of fabric, designed to cover the back of the chicken in between the wings. A little piece of elastic is attached to each side of the fabric. The elastic goes around the base of the wing (a surprisingly narrow attachment) and attaches with a snap to hold the fabric in place. They are also called chicken aprons, which I think they more closely resemble, except they sit on the chicken's back.
Very stylish, non?
The saddles worked like a charm. When we took them off a couple of months later, the back feathers had grown in nice and healthy. We haven't had the same problem since, knock on wood.
Unfortunately, the woman who made the beautiful saddles is no longer accepting new orders! If I had known that, I am not sure I would have lent them out. As you can see, they are works of art, and she chose the designs specifically with our farm in mind.
So now when you hear the words "chicken dressing," a whole new image will spring to mind!