by Andrea J. Mahoney
From the editor:
If you have a rooster, the general rule of thumb for rooster-to-hen ratio is 1 rooster for 10 to 12 hens. This is to help ensure the rooster isn’t too hard on any particular hens. However, sometimes, even when you have the right ratio, a rooster will choose a favorite hen or two and wear the feathers off of the hens’ backs.
When this happens, in order to protect your hens’ backs, you can simply make or purchase a hen saddle. For our Summer issue (since summer is often such a busy time for roosters), I asked Andrea Mahoney, an amazing seamstress, to create instructions for making hen saddles.
The instructions that follow are for a medium to medium-large hen (think a standard size Rhode Island Red or ISA Brown). Depending upon the size of your hen, you can adjust this pattern. Andrea has been so kind to include a PDF of the pattern she used. To fit a larger hen, just trace around the outside, adjusting to fit the needs of your hen. To fit a smaller hen, just trace around the inside—and be sure to use a narrower elastic, most likely ¼ inch.
Andrea’s work will be a regular feature here at Farmer-ish, so stay tuned for more of her amazing projects. You can also check out her Etsy shop here, which she will be growing as she creates projects for us here at Farmer-ish.
*A quick note about fabric and elastic. You should pre-wash your fabric before cutting out the pattern, to allow the material to shrink before sewing. Fat quarters (18”x22”) can be purchased easily, and you can choose to have the same pattern for both sides, or mix it up with a different fabric on each side. I happened to have fabric around that measured large enough after washing, so I am using 2, 8”x9” pieces of fabric to cut out my pattern. Also, be sure to stretch out your elastic (like you would with a balloon!) before measuring to cut.*
1/2 inch elastic (pre-stretch before measuring and cutting 12” length).
Water soluble marking pen or chalk
Pattern (located here)
First, gather all of your items so that you have everything nearby.
I like to cut my paper pattern out with regular scissors first, so that I can use my fabric scissors on only the fabric.
Next, lay your two pieces of fabric, right sides together, on top of each other. Place a few pins along the pattern, especially near the curves to hold everything nicely together.
Cut carefully around the pattern, and check that you are cutting both layers.
Next, go ahead and cut your pre-stretched elastic to 12”.
Go ahead and take 2 of the pins, and poke them through the 2 x’s on the pattern. This spot marks where you will attach the elastic later. Take your chalk, and make a small mark on the right sides of the fabrics.
Next, keep the right sides together, and pin your fabric along the sides.
You are going to use a 1/4 inch seam allowance, and remember to leave the top open for turning.
You want to use a straight stitch here, mid-length, and be sure to reverse stitch at the beginning and the end of your sewing to keep your stitches in place. * Remember to keep the top straight edge.* Also, remember to pivot at the sharp corners. This is where you bring the needle to the 90 degree corner, leave the needle down, lift the presser foot, pivot your fabric to the next section, set the presser foot back down, and continue sewing.
Then, remove the pins, and carefully clip along the curves and corners, without getting too close to the stitching. See the orange lines in the photo to get an idea of where to clip.
Next, turn the saddle inside out. I also like to take something a little more defined, like a pencil or knitting needle, to help push out those hard to reach edges. I like to give the saddle a quick press at this point once turned.
It is also a good idea to do top stitching so everything lays nicely, usually about an ⅛” from the edge. A nice burst of steam from the iron helps to set your top stitch.
Next, place your elastic along the upper edge, and fold the top edge down 1”. Pin in place.
Then, you will want to sew in place, following the line from the stitch previously sewn. You want to make sure to not sew through the elastic.
Next, line up the elastic to those marking from the x’s. Pin in place to be ready to sew. I like to try my best to follow the stitch line from previous steps. Stitch and reverse stitch the elastic in place. I like to go over the elastic parts a couple of times at least, for good measure.
Remove pins, and be sure to clip threads.
Viola! One chicken saddle! Ready to protect the back of a hen who has to put up with too much rooster attention!