Around mid-summer, many hens that are kept in a flock with a cockerel start to look bare on their backs having lost feathers from his constant attention. Small flocks suffer the most but even in a large flock, a cock will have his favourites who are no doubt the birds who have lost the most feathers!
To protect hens backs and give feathers a chance to re-grow, poultry saddles can be used which are usually made out of a tough material that protect the back but still allow the cock bird to tread the hen successfully.
I have used saddles to protect some of my breeding birds for years but even when a saddle is correctly fitted, the hen can still sometimes lose feathers on her wings. I was really pleased to see a new design of “butterfly” saddle that is made and sold by Denise of the Chickenbreeder website that protects the back but also the tops of the wings.
The main part of the saddle looks like any other but it has two additional ‘wings’ that cover the tops of the birds wings, held in place with Velcro straps.
I fitted a butterfly poultry saddle to one of my Copper Black Marans a couple of weeks ago and have been very impressed by it so far. As well as protecting both the hens back and her wings, I have noticed that the way the saddle fits with the Velcro straps keeps the saddle firmly in place at all times. Some of my older poultry saddles move around from time to time which has caused them to lean to one side, protecting only part of the back and has needed me to catch the hen to re-adjust the saddle.
Another use of the butterfly saddle is to protect poorly feathered hens from getting sunburn. Ex-battery hens for example are often poorly feathered when they first arrive.