How to Make a Chicken Saddle

NOTE: While I enjoy making these saddles, I am currently overwhelmed with unfinished projects on the homestead and no longer offering to make saddles for others. The below instructions should step you through making your own in no time!

If a hen is being over-mated, she may begin to lose the feathers on her back from the rooster’s spurs and nails. I have even read of cases where the rooster’s spurs have actually slashed through the skin on a hen’s back.

Initially, I thought my hens were molting. I had heard others talk about “rooster tracks” on hens, but I was in complete denial that it was happening to my hens. My cousin, Julie, finally set me straight, and when I realized I have several hens that are being over-mated, I was quite upset. My once beautiful hens were looking ragged and bald spots began appearing on their backs. It upset me because a molt would be temporary. It would naturally end and my hens would have their beautiful feathers again. Rooster tracks made me feel helpless. I just wasn’t sure how to deal with it.

This is a picture of one of the hen’s back. I’m holding her on her side so Bernie could get a good picture of her back:

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Ouch! After doing a little research, I decided to make a chicken saddle. A chicken saddle is material that you secure to the hen’s back to help protect it from rooster spurs.

This particular chicken saddle is for one of my White Faced Black Spanish hens. They tend to be rather large, so keep that in mind if you use these instructions to make a saddle for a smaller hen. Simply altering the pattern by an inch or so should do it.

Because I will likely end up making several of these, I started by making a template out of cardboard:

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I cut the card board in an 8 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ square. Then I cut out the wing area by leaving 3 inches in the center of the top and cutting a curve to each side that ends 6 1/2 inches from the bottom.

Whether you use a template or not, cut an 8 1/2″ X 17″ piece of material. This is easily done by folding the material in half and cutting it 8 1/2″ wide, and 8 1/2″ on each side.

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Iron fusible interfacing to the back side of the material.

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Fold the material in half, right side together.

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If you are using a template, lay the template on top of the folded material – the top of the template with two semi-cirles is placed on the fold of the material.

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Cut out the two semi-circles, which are the “wing holes” for the saddle. Then round the bottom edges.

When the material is unfolded and laying face up, it should look like this:

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With the material folded, right sides together, begin sewing them together on a 1/4″ seam- be sure to leave about 4 inches UNSEWN at the bottom. You’ll need this to pull it right side out when finished. Also, do NOT sew completely up to the fold at the top. Leave about 1/2 inch on each side. You’ll need this to insert the elastic. Below is the saddle sewn (wrong sides together), and then right sides pulled out through the hole in the bottom.

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Cut two 5 1/2″ strips of 1/4″ elastic. Insert the ends of the elastic into the holes on each side of the top of the saddle. Sew the elastic in place, and sew a 1/4 inch seam around the entire saddle. Then quilt it by sewing two lines down the front to hold the two pieces of material together.

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Add snaps on the end of the elastic, and place the other end of the snaps about 1/2″ from the edge of the bottom of the wing holes.

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You should bring the elastic around to snap it under the chicken’s wing, like this:

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I layed the saddle, snaps down, on my White Faced Black Spanishs’ back. Then I lifted each wing, brought the elastic under the wing, and snapped it to the material.

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Just look at how pretty she is in her new chicken saddle!

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64 Responses to “How to Make a Chicken Saddle”

  1. Perfect. Especially the elastic placement. Thanks!

  2. Jennifer Leip says:

    I can’t wait to make these for my hens this weekend. Thanks for posting!

  3. Chickenmama says:

    Thank you so much for this information!! It will really help my girls. God bless you.

  4. Melissa says:

    Thank heavens for this post. It saved my girl! Thank you. http://www.tillysnest.com/2012/02/hen-saver.html

  5. Shelly says:

    I made these for my hens and they are finally getting some feathers back. Thanks

  6. Jess says:

    Can I ask why you use fusible webbing between the two layers?

  7. basicliving says:

    Hi Jess – I use the fusible webbing to keep the two pieces of material secured to each other and stronger so that the saddle stands up to rooster tracks better.

  8. […] need was immediate and my budget low, so I turned to a great DIY page, dug up an old shirt that had belonged to The Man, the waistband of a pair of fuzzy pants outgrown […]

  9. […] tweaked the saddle design, because it was designed for hens with bare backs, not bare bums, and for over-humped hens, not […]

  10. Chick-n says:

    Thank you for posting this!
    I made one. It ws the first time I had sewn anything in decades…. I even remembered how to use the sewing machine. But it is too big and she can get it right off. I think the elastics are too long, but how long are the ones in your picture? I am worried about making them too small and hurting her wings, but she took it right off, and the straps were just hanging.

  11. Chick-n says:

    just re-read the instructions again, and you wrote that this was for a larger chicken. I am going to take an inch out of the width by making a seam down the middle. I shortened the elastics quite a bit. Will post pictures if it works.

  12. basicliving says:

    I hope the smaller size works for you! I’d love to see a picture.

  13. Susan says:

    You want to hear something funny? When I first saw the picture, it looked sort of like a diaper — so I thought it was for the rooster, to solve the over-mating problem that way! :D

  14. HaveaHen says:

    Hey I just tried this and my saddles look awesome! But when I put them on my Laced Wyandottes they just went insane. They were ramming themselves against some old branches in the yard to try to get the coats off. They have also been huddling up in corners staying away from the others. Should I be worried?

  15. basicliving says:

    Susan – that made me laugh! I can see why you thought that though. Too funny.

    HaveaHen – My hens have never reacted that way, but I’ve heard others say theirs acted similar to yours. I suggest putting the saddles on your girls when it gets dark and then placing them back on their roost with their new saddle for the night. It may help them get used to it overnight and not be so stressed about it the next day.

  16. basicliving has a good idea. I laughed out loud as well. Perhaps if it were approached like new glasses, after the overnight adjustment, if not completely successful, then an hour more every day until they adapt. My solution has always been much more expensive….buy hens until i can give away two with every rooster….Just can’t seem to get my family to eat anyone they have been introduced to….It is usually only about once a year one of the Bantam hens will raise a secret brood. Last winter the secret brood resulted in one little pullet (who died) and four identical cockerels, two of whom will be relocated to our friends in a week or so. The Bantam roosters with standard hens is an effective way to keep the hens safe from predators (well, at least in an early warning way) and have them escorted and shepherded, but the Bantam roosters do much less damage during their romantic episodes.

  17. Something else…this week the Guineas did something unexpected. The four little cockerels were about to start hounding one of the hens, and two of the guineas placed themselves between the hen and the little roosters, effectively stopping the unpleasant event. End of story. Interesting. These guys are NOT meat with feathers. In the fourteen years i have lived closely with them I have enjoyed their social structure, quiet night time singing to each other, and in times of stress, how nice and warm and soft a chicken can be to hug.

  18. basicliving says:

    bhaskardancer – Our turkeys do something very similar – both the hens and the jakes/toms. When a rooster makes unwelcome advances on a chicken hen, the turkeys will get between the hen and rooster, and even chase the rooster around the yard. Amazing isn’t it?

  19. I love my chickens. I really do enjoy being around them. (they are probably the most spoiled chickens in Oklahoma) Today the fox was in the road in broad daylight. But the dogs are on guard/Fox duty at the gates, and the hue and cry got me out there to scare him away. I guess we have gotten a little off topic…sorry.

  20. Karen says:

    I’m making several right now. Thanks for the tip and pattern.

  21. HaveaHen says:

    I tried your suggestion. It seemed to work for at least one of the hens. But soon they all found a way to work their way out of the saddles. Too bad. I didn’t use the fusible webbing between the two pieces of cloth, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe when their stronger they’re be more comfortable and stay flat on their backs easier….

  22. basicliving says:

    HaveaHen – The snaps are still snapped, but they wiggle out of the saddle? It sounds as though the elastic may be a little too long for them. When you snap the elastic around their wings it should be snug, but not too tight. Basically, once I get the saddles on mine, it doesn’t really move from side to side on their back when I tug on it. That’s how it should fit. Does this make sense? I’ve always used the fusible webbing, so I have no idea what the difference is when it’s not used. That may be the problem – but it would be a quicker and easier fix if the elastic is too long!

  23. Snapdragon Farm says:

    Thanks for the pattern. I needed twelve of these PRONTO and didnt have the money to buy them, but I happened to have all of the supplies (except the binding)
    I didn’t see that these were for bigger hens lol
    I shortened the elastic and cut back the material an inch. I also added an indent for the tail.
    Perfect fit, only every time she moves, it scrunches up her back.
    Any suggestions?
    Lindsay

  24. Angela says:

    Thanks!!!! I know what my kids and I will be doing today for our three poor hens! We currently are raising more babies in hopes of having some larger bodied hens. Our large Easter Egger roo (8 2/3 lbs!) has been separated from his ladies for three weeks now but maybe, just maybe this will help! :D Thank you!!!

  25. Connie says:

    I love these — and I should be able to make them with the yards of cotton that I have been saving for some reason–lol thanks ever so much- Connie

  26. Prunella says:

    thank you ever so much, you are a star!
    I was wondering if I would not have to part with the cockerel! I shall start making one (of a few) right away! Bles you for sharing & your kindness

  27. Betty says:

    All 9 of my hens have developed a pecking problem regardless of the extremes I’ve gone to…separation is impossible since they are all being bullies. Tomorrow I will have all of them saddled up by the end of the day! Prayerfully, this will get them out of the habit and feathers will grow back! Thanks so much for your generous help.

  28. Karen says:

    Love the pattern, thanks so much. I have 19 week old Speckled Sussex that are in need of these, since the two roosters have started to be quite active!

    Question: Can you use Velcro in place of the elastic? We have some of these saddles that we ordered from someone last year and the elastic is now stretched. I don’t have a snap attacher (don’t know it’s real name, sorry!) and was wondering if Velcro would do the job and thus eliminate the stretched out elastic issue.

    So basically, this saddle is 4 layers thick (6, if you count the fusible material)? Also, how do you get the nice rounded corners on the chicken saddle?

    Thanks!

  29. basicliving says:

    Hi Karen – I’ve never used velcro, so I’m not sure if that would work. You could use regular snaps that you sew on if you don’t have a tool.

    Once folded in half and sewn, the saddle is 4 layers thick – including the fusible interfacing. You iron the fusible interfacing to the material, and fold it in half before sewing. I rounded the corners with scissors before sewing :)

    I hope yours turn out!

  30. For pecking – find black salve. Rub it on the hens – it is black and will make the hens look dirty and stick to your fingers of you have the right stuff – and this should offend their senses as well as heal the bald patches.

  31. IF you have the right stuff
    not necessarily for people….
    but it sure works for a million things on the livestock – especially the chickens

  32. KarenG (a.k.a the second Karen listed) says:

    Thanks for the answers, basicliving.

    What do you do when the elastic stretches? Is it easy to replace? Or have you not had that problem (we have)?

    Do you have these on all year round?

    Also, what kinds of fabrics work best for this? Dark colored ones, light colored ones? Heavy fabrics or lighter fabrics? I ask because we have a dark colored breed that gets quite hot in the summer time? I’m thinking that some sort of lighter color(so they don’t get any hotter in the summer) and some sort of medium weight fabric so that it won’t tear easily. Are those your thoughts/experiences as well?

    Thanks.

  33. basicliving says:

    I have used lightweight cotton and I have used upholstery material. I prefer the lightweight because I think it doesn’t get as hot on the hens as the heavier material. If you use the fusible interfacing on the back of your material as I described in the instructions it should be strong enough to last a while. I don’t keep the saddles on my hens year round. I only put them on the hens that suffer the worst from rooster tracks in the spring and summer and then remove the saddles after a couple of months and watch to see if it is still an issue. Once molting starts I remove the saddles for the rest of the year. I don’t pay any attention to the color – these are country chicks that don’t get out often enough to worry about getting gussied up :) For the elastic – you can just clip it off and then sew on another piece. Be sure to stitch it very well to the saddle so it doesn’t tear off.

  34. Lovemybackyardpets says:

    This is cool stuff. I do it for the winter season also. It’s mighty cold up here and some of them are molting at the wrong time.

  35. Kim says:

    Thanks so much, I will be sewing all weekend as we have about 50 hens in lay. Brahmas so the Roos are really heavy. I will let you know how they work out.
    Kim

  36. SandyK says:

    I just finished up a saddle for one of my molting girls. It’s been so cold here and she looks so uncomfortable, I thought she needed one for sure. Anyway, I quilted some fabric with batting under it and then backed it with some fleece to make it nice and comfy on the inside. Since it was dark out, I took it down and put it on her. She thought I was killing her ;-) Flopped around all over the place. I think it was a little to loose, so I just put some knots in the elastic straps to see if that helps. I’ll check on her tomorrow to see how she is doing with it. The other girls got down off the roost to check her new coat out. They were pecking at it a bit and said who ever heard of such. I told them all, next they would be wanting one for themselves!!

    Thanks so much for the pattern. That was very thoughtful of you.

    Blessings,
    Sandy

  37. Kathryn lamm says:

    Thanks for all this great info. I was horrified when I came home from the beach only to find several of my chickens bare backed!!!!!!! I made all 6 of them a saddle with your help. I did need to make a smaller version though, which I found the sizes on another website. Thanks again, I hope they start getting feathers quickly!

  38. Judy says:

    Thanks for the needed help! I’m new to chickens and this problem looks terrible! I can’t wait to get sewing! Question: Why do you not just sew the elastic in the fabric and not use snaps?

  39. basicliving says:

    Hi Judy. I think you’d have a lot more trouble getting your hen’s wings through elastic openings if you don’t use snaps. The snaps make it really easy for me to put the saddles on my girls.

  40. Elaine says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Following your directions, I was able to make saddles for my hens which worked really well. With one interesting exception: fabric in the reddish hues set off our rooster! After making four aprons from scratch pieces of fabric, I cut up an old pillowcase in a (faded even!) redish-burgundy color, and as soon as I released the hen back into the yard, our rooster immediately jumped on her and tore the apron clean off! He did NOT do this to the other hens. So I thought, perhaps he was just in one of his “moods,” so I tried again the next day, this time allowing the hen adjust to the saddle for a few minutes before placing her back with the flock. Same result, Elvis immediately ran over to her and tore the thing off again. I’ve made subsequent saddles in fabric without a spec of anything approximating red to which he has not reacted. So I thought it would be worth posting my little ordeal to save others some unneccessary work and grief – some roosters apparently cannot take red, even a faded red-burgundy!

  41. Janine says:

    Judy, thanks for the pattern! I live along the Alabama coast so it gets pretty hot and humid. We have 5 Rhode Island Red hens that are free range. Since we live in the country and have about 10 acres we are concerned about hawks so I’m interested if the saddles can really protect the hens from the hawks. Your thoughts? My girls LOVE to take dirt baths. It seems the saddles would prevent them from getting dirt on their backs and possibly promote the growth of parasites on their backs due to heat and humidity. How important are these baths? How long or which months would be best to use saddles? Thanks so much for your time!

  42. basicliving says:

    Hi Elaine – that’s an interesting reaction! I have heard that certain roosters will react to a particular color, but I’ve never experienced it! Glad you figured it out and the saddle worked for you though.

  43. basicliving says:

    Hi Janine – I have never heard of saddles being used for hawk protection and, given the razor sharp claws of a hawk, I would not think the saddles would be much help. My hens do not seem to have any problem dust bathing with the saddles on. They do not fit so tightly that the dirt can’t get up under them.

  44. My roosters in my purposely mixed flock have always divided the hens by colour. Yes, sad to say, my chickens are very much segregated by colour. They do it themselves, I just pu tthem all in the coop together – of course, mine are bantam roosters, and those work as a team with the hens. I am suspecting, Elaine, that your flock may NOT be red hens…. Which might explain Elvis’ strong response to the red saddle…

  45. Elaine says:

    Hi Candace – yes you are correct, no Rhode Island Reds or NH Reds. We do have Welsummer and Americana hens who have some feathers in that rusty brown range though, but apparently not red enough! ;-)

  46. Henstead Hens says:

    Have used your pattern to make saddles for our girls. Have made the large size for our Buff Orpington and a slightly smaller version for our Silver Lace. Lots more to make in a range of sizes for our Isa s. We live on the east coast in England and its good to read posts from chicken lovers the world over. The pattern is a god send. Thanks.

  47. basicliving says:

    I’m so glad you found the pattern useful Henstead Hens!

  48. Rebecca Evans says:

    Oops! I bought regular interfacing (not fusible) so it does not iron on. I made the pattern, and it looks fine, I just don’t know if it will work. I did “quilt” the saddle down and across. Do you think this will work?

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