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Chicken Fashion Show

Despite our efforts with the Blu-Kote, Frances still was losing feathers (whether by her own beak, Alberta’s, or both remains unknown). So I decided to fashion her a chicken apron of sorts (thanks for the idea, Laura!). I’ve gone through 4 design revisions, starting with one I modeled after hen saddles I’ve seen on the internet, a simple cape with elastic to go around the wings like a backpack. I used a light soft cotton flannel for comfort and breathability (and in lavender since it would be soaking up the purple stain from the Blue-Kote), and I took my time measuring it and seaming it. It turned out pretty cute:

chicken-dress1

But it seemed very awkward for her to walk around in. She couldn’t quite get her balance right, and I figured it was the elastic straps. They were just too big and bulky for her little developing wings.

So then I made a vest out of a simple rectangle, cut with my zig-zag scissors so I didn’t have to bother seaming this time, and I measured and fitted it with her sitting on my lap, cutting slits to fit her wings as closely as possible. It also looked pretty cute and she acted much more comfortable in it. And it looked more light and airy over her back, which would probably feel nicer as she’s trying to heal up and grow in her itchy new feathers:

chicken-dress2

But it didn’t take long for her to figure out how to get it off. So I tried sewing on bits of ribbon in the front and knotting them together under her breast. A single knot was quickly pulled apart, but a double knot tucked under seemed to do the trick. This held together all night, although it had come over one wing in the morning, but once adjusted, it stayed on all day today:

chicken-dress3

However, it still seemed a bit short, and as you can see, it got very dirty from being pulled off and trampled on before the ribbon addition. They had also managed to still pull out some tail feathers and some blood got onto the skirt. Also, I wondered how comfortable she slept with a knot under her stomach, even from a small satin ribbon. So I made a new version of this using a bit of elastic with a snap enclosure at the front. I also made it longer and cut curved edges at the back to follow her bottom feathers and perhaps keep it cleaner. This is definitely my favorite look so far… and hopefully it will keep her sweet back protected so she can grow her feathers back in soon!

chicken-dress4

chicken-dress5

We also have great news about our integration efforts. Gloria seems to have accepted the new girls now! Last night I was able to stop using the rake as a mama hen to protect the chicks, we even were all up on the hammock together at one point, and tonight everyone was free-ranging together with no issues. Gloria even started acting like she wanted to hang out with Frances and Alberta, but whenever she would get close, they would scream and run away. I guess the couple of pecks she got in early on got her message across. But I’m fine with this dynamic for now. No blood, no foul. Gloria also is acting protective of them, I think. Whenever I need to go inside, I put them under their cage top, and she gets really worried when I leave them and starts squawking and pacing around the cage. And of course they are protesting being cooped up in there and freaked out about Gloria’s circling, so there is much squawking all around. Also, when I was rounding up Alberta and Frances to take them into bed, Alberta (per usual) tried to get away from me, but Gloria helped (gently… no pecking) herd her into the carrier. I think she’s going to make a very good Auntie after all!

 

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10 thoughts on “Chicken Fashion Show

  1. I chuckled through the whole post. You went through a lot of what I did. Is it too tight? Oh, it came off? Oh, it’s so dirty…. Anyway, I’m jealous that you can hold and measure your chook. All 6 of mine hate being held/touched so measurements are impossible. I made something (too big) then, when it came off, reduced it. Made one smaller, repeated the process… Until I both had a workable model and she got her feathers back (whew).

    3 comments/thoughts/warnings.

    My hen seemed fine with her jacket most of the time and even preened her back like she had feathers (funny to watch). But sometimes she’d peck and pull at it. Once she managed to get a long string loose and through her beak and it was still attached to her cape at both ends and her head got stuck at an uncomfortable looking angle. I had to break the string to free her mouth. I hadn’t hemmed the sides at that point but I did after that. So watch out for fraying edges.

    The second thing is I think your latest cape needs to be shortened a bit as Frances will still need access to her preen (or oil) gland. She’ll want to coat her feathers in all that nice oil but it looks like her preen gland is under her cape.

    Rain. I was lucky that it really never rained when Henny was wearing her cape (droughts have some advantages). But being cotton (hers was denim) I was worried that in a heavy rain it would get wet and she’d freeze with it on. I think you’re luck with Frances in that you can just take it off before the rain so it doesn’t get wet or afterwards if it does get wet. I’ve seen some people have a cotton (or fleece in winter) lining with a plastic rain coat top. That was way too much work for me.

    I’m so happy that Gloria is becoming protective and giving up being a bully. Bullies are lonely and, let’s face it, you got the newbies so Gloria wouldn’t be lonely. I hope they’re together 24×7 soon – they’ll all benefit from flocking.

    Thanks for the posts, I love reading them.

    • Thanks for the advice! I am lucky that she likes to be held, I imagine her submissive nature is what helped get her into this mess. And I will probably hem this one, now that I know it will work. Where is the preening gland? At the base of her tail feathers? Because that area was getting ravaged too. I take it off when they are outside in the late afternoon, so she has some time to preen and dust bath then, and it most likely won’t rain here until mid-October, when hopefully they will all be outside all day and in a nice big coop together with feathers grown in… hopefully!

      • The preen gland is indeed at the base of the tail. It should be easy to spot, it’s a little nipple-like protrusion. The 2nd photo in this post here shows one pretty clearly http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/625674/help-my-chickens-are-losing-their-feathers-and-im-losing-my-mind

        Henny happily wore her cape when dust bathing (maybe why it was so dirty?) but I imagine it didn’t feel so lovely since all that good dirt didn’t reach her skin. No way could I remove the cape and put it back on daily. Again, you are lucky you can handle Frances so easily and she is very lucky you are the one who brought her home!

        Frances might not have all her feathers by mid-October. They probably won’t come in until she goes through a full moult (chickens don’t constantly replace feathers like we do hair – it only happens during a moult once or sometimes twice a year). She might (hopefully will) moult by then but… Or maybe since she’s so young she’s still growing new feathers all the time? I haven’t had such a young bird so haven’t done my research there.

      • Interesting. But even if they don’t all grow back, there are quite a few coming in (brand new?) that i want to have a sporting chance. 😉

  2. talk about having to be inventive ^^
    well done on finding a solution to the problem and I think Frances looks most becoming ^^

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