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:
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:
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:
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!
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!