One of our hens is a firm favourite with the rooster. She is Wife No.1. But, he is a Buff Orpington (a large breed) and she is a Hyline (much smaller). For this reason, she began to look rather dishevelled. His claws and spurs constantly raking on her feathers during mating began to strip the feather shaft and she lost most of her feathers. As a result of this happening in Summer, Wife No. 1 suffered severe sunburn on the tops of her wings and on her back. She had to be put into the chick nursery which is covered in shade cloth to protect her skin. Because of the damage to the feathers, and the sunburn, it took a long time for her feathers to grow back. She had to wait until the next molt for her feathers to regrow. Sadly poor Wife No.1 could only watch the others through the fence.
However, Mr. Buff was determined to still pay his Wife No.1 visits. In doing so, because she was lacking feathers, he accidentally ripped the skin on the one side of her body. It was quite a severe wound and we were not sure she would make it. We gave her lots of love and rest, keeping her securely locked up and hoped she would recover – which she miraculously did! In the meantime, Mr. Buff chose a Wife No.2 and her feathers began to meet the same fate. Before she was injured, we put the two wives together in the nursery.
Although they had each other for company, hens become quite depressed when separated from the flock. We decided to return them to the flock once their feathers had recovered.
In the meantime, the chicks that had hatched during Summer had now reached maturity and many of them decided that Wife No.1 was indeed a pretty good catch. This resulted in her wound being again ripped open. She had to be immediately separated again as the other hens may begin to peck at the wound. We began treating the wound again and researched how we could keep her protected but still with the flock. We came across chicken saddles!
Wife No.1 and Wife No.2 sporting their saddles
A saddle is a covering, usually of quite thick fabric, that fits over the chicken’s wings and rests over her back, much like a horse saddle would do. It protects the hen’s skin and feathers from the rooster’s sharp claws and spurs during mating, until the feathers grow back. It takes a lot of energy for the chicken to produce new feathers and they require special elements in their diet to aid the growth. As a result, the chicken usually stops laying. So Wife No.1 and No.2 have laid very sporadically throughout Winter. Now the two of them are sporting saddles while their feathers recover. Mr. Buff’s spurs and claws have also been trimmed and blunted to hopefully protect the rest of the flock too. As you will see in our July post, the young cockerels have been rehomed and Mr. Buff now has a selection of 11 wives to choose from, so hopefully he can spread the love and give his favourite wives a bit more TLC!