Tuesday, September 24, 2013

crochet pattern for chicken saddle/apron/sweater

Have you ever heard of a hen saddle or a chicken apron? If not you will learn all about them today! 

There are multiple reasons why a chicken will have missing feathers, from molting to over-mating to mites to pecking. Often times one problem will lead to another, which is the case for my poor girl, Clucky. She was 'thrown in' for free when I purchased my other three chickens - and let me mention here that I made a rookie mistake when I picked them all up. I let myself be bullied into buying them even though they weren't what they had been advertised as by the seller.

When I arrived at the seller's house, I realized that her chickens weren't pets at all and that they had definitely never free-ranged (something the seller had told me they were used to when I mentioned to them over the phone that that's the kind of chickens I was interested in). About 20 chickens were stuffed into a barn stall that had been (poorly) adapted as a chicken 'coop'. As I said, my mistake is that I didn't have to buy the four chickens I had come with the intention of purchasing. But I felt all weird and pressured and awkward and handed over my money anyway, despite not feeling the best about the situation.

I had been under the impression that I was purchasing two laying hens (the two Buff Orpingtons) and two pullets (the Black Austrolorps). The seller said she decided to give me Clucky for free since she was older and might stop laying soon (probably also because she's not even a full Buff, she's some sort of mix). She also mentioned that the two Buffs were 'molting', which isn't the biggest deal, except that most chickens don't lay when they're molting. So I wasn't getting two laying hens at all. I mean yes, they would eventually start laying again, but the pullets would probably lay before them, which completely defeated the purpose of purchasing older, 'laying' hens. 

Anyway, I could go on about that whole situation, but the reason I mentioned all of this in the first place is because while both Buffs did show evidence of molting, they both also showed evidence of over-mating. Since I've had them I've increased their protein intake to help them grow their feathers back faster and Duchess has nearly grown all of hers back in. But poor Clucky hasn't been able to, because she's at the bottom of the pecking order (literally). 

Luckily, there's a simple way to protect the raw skin from pecking so that the new feathers have a chance to grow in - a chicken saddle! There are many different 'designs' for chicken saddles/aprons, but they all pretty much boil down to the same thing: a piece of fabric covering the raw skin held on by loops around each wing.

First you need to measure your chicken to make the right size saddle for them. Clucky is on the small size so it was especially important to measure her instead of going with general measurements based on breed. 

First measure from wing to wing to get the width in inches you need to cover with your saddle. The fabric needs to tuck under the wing at least an inch to be held down correctly. As you can see Clucky's saddle needed to be about 6" wide.

Next measure from the base of your chickens neck to the base of their tail feathers. Clucky's saddle needed to be about 7" long.

You can adjust the size of your apron based on what parts of the back need protection. Clucky is missing feathers all the way down to the base of her tail feathers so her saddle needed to be as long as possible.


You will need about half a skien of worsted weight yarn. Wool is best, with cotton as the next best option. (I wouldn't recommend using red yarn since chickens are attracted to red things and like to peck them...sort of defeats the purpose ha)

Size 'I' crochet hook

yarn needle (for weaving in your ends)

an hour (at the most) to snuggle in and get to work!


*based on Clucky's measurement and my personal gauge - after you chain 26 you can measure it and see if it will be wide enough for your chicken

// Chain 26, turn and hdc (half double crochet) in original 25 scs. 
// CH (chain) 1, turn and hdc in previous 25 stitches.
// Continue until you've reached 90% of your desired length.
// Decrease by one hdc on the end of each row for the last 10%, an inch at the most (as you can see from my picture, I decreased earlier, but it ended up not being wide enough to stay put so I had to go back and fix it).
// On your last row, continue past edge to chain 20 and join to other side using a slip stitch. 

// Slip stitch through next 5 st (back down the body of the saddle), chain 30 (making another loop), and sl st in last 5 stitches. 
// sl st around the rest of the saddle to make a more uniform edge (this step is optional - it is only a chicken garment, after all).
// Fasten off, and weave in tails.

*obviously, I am not a professional pattern writer. I apologize profusely for the pure badness of this pattern. Luckily, this should be a really, really easy project and should be easy to figure out once you get going and from looking at my pictures. If you have questions don't hesitate to include them in the comment section and I'll answer as soon as I can! 

To put on:
20 st loop goes around the neck/chest
30 st loop, gently pull wings up through it, one at a time, so that it can rest under the wings to be held in place. Loop should rest around the chest. They shouldn't be too tight, make sure you can easily slip two fingers inbetween the loops and your chickens chest.

Clucky sort of hopped around and pecked at the saddle for a few minutes, then seemed to forget about it completely. When you bird hops and runs around, the saddle can get out of place, but after a day or two it should settle down where it belongs. Also, they should be able to go about all their normal activities...Clucky was in her dust bath about an hour after I put the saddle on her.

Let me know if you have any questions and any additional feedback (help with the pattern lingo, please?!) would be greatly appreciated!

Linked up with Nicole at Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On {crafting on}.


  1. I love this! When I worked at the zoo, one of our chickens wore one. I thought it was genius, and very stylish :) I'm so jealous that you have chickens. Friends of ours in Anchorage had them and when I would house sit for them my favorite thing was checking for eggs every morning.

  2. This is hilarious! I follow a lady on IG (Kristin Rogers) who put a diaper on her chicken and lets it come inside. Haha. At first that's what I thought this was.
    We had a similar situation with our chickens - they were all supposed to be pullets, but ended up being laying chickens, who had apparently been laying for quite some time because we've already had two out of four stop laying. So we learned the hard way too.

  3. Girl, I could die. I got so much crap for buying chicken sweaters when my girls were molting-- now I don't feel so crazy!

  4. Bless her heart! I hope she's full-feathered again soon. A friend of mine sewed chicken saddles for hers.

  5. Awe, good thing those chicks have YOU! Swooning over your leggings BTW. :)

  6. Tracy Garrison ChristensenJanuary 28, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    This is so awesome! My Omlette was just attacked by a dog and is missing lots of feathers and skin in the area this would cover. Can you show a few more pictures of the area under the wings and chest area?

  7. I have plenty of hens but my roo is tearing up his "favorite" 4 and I have to shield them from the sun. My 1st crochet apron twists off her back. Should I make it wider or the band loops smaller? Thank you for your help.

  8. Vicky Hasgill BrownOctober 3, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    where do you tie it on?