The girls’ chicken saddles arrived last Friday, and it took me two evenings of working myself up before I got up the courage to put them on. I haven’t handled the chickens much since they were chicks. I run my hands over them while they roost in the evening at times, just feeling their shape and reassuring myself of their general health. I shine a flashlight near their vents every couple of weeks checking for mites or other creepy-crawlies. But, other than lifting Phoenix and Little White from the nest boxes back onto the roost each evening, I don’t usually pick them up or unfold their wings. I was nervous to do so, but I knew it just meant a weakness in my husbandry. No teacher like experience; time to bite the proverbial bullet.
So, last Sunday evening, I armed myself with a handful of chicken saddles in several medium sizes and made my way up to the coop about twenty minutes after they typically roost. Not only Penelope was in need; by the time I had saddles in hand, Olive and Rosie were looking a bit worn as well. I closed up the pop door, and to reduce general panic and allow myself better light, I took one bare-backed girl at a time outside to sit with me on a lawn chair and see about a saddle.
I had ordered a couple medium saddles which would fit most of my girls, a wider saddle in case Henny ever has such difficulties, and a smaller saddle for pullets or Phoenix. Since I didn’t have three narrow saddles, I put the medium-narrow saddles on Rosie and Olive and a wider saddle on the slightly more robust and more worn Penelope. None of them seemed to appreciate my effort, to put it mildly. Olive put up such a fuss that she actually got away from me and honked around the yard until I opened the coop, let her hop back in, and recaptured her to start over. I followed the directions in the video on the seller’s website. In the end, they were all saddled, if a bit ruffled. It was easiest to put on the saddle I had ordered with snaps, so I would certainly prefer those in the future.
The “butterfly” shaped saddle seems to be the least mussed by day-to-day chicken activities. Once the initial stress of being handled was over, they have not seemed bothered by their saddles at all this week. I am a bit concerned that their inability to dust bathe or preen their backs for an extended period of time will be a problem, but after a bit of checking, it seems that folks leave on saddles for up to two months to allow feathers to regrow. All in all, the saddles are working out. Backs are being saved.
Beards have not been so lucky. Neither, for that matter, have hackle feathers. Somebody out there is plucking feathers from their kin’s chins. Two of the six bearded ladies out there are now beardless, both Olive and Penelope, and Lazzie looks awful – somebody has pulled out chunks of his hackle feathers around his neck. I suspect the Silver Ameraucana cockerel, but I have no proof.
The feather-picking is really irking me. I haven’t yet decided on my course of action. If any of you have dealt with this before, your insights would be greatly appreciated. 🙂