I’ve learned a lot about rooster love in the last year, a bit too much perhaps, and one thing I can say is that love hurts! We currently have 3 roosters living with our flock of 25 hens, which is at the high end of the recommended rooster to hen ratio. Now that spring is here the boys are getting increasingly amorous with the ladies, and several of the ladies are looking a bit tattered in the feather department. The black australorps are among the boys’ favorites, followed by the easter eggers and the speckled sussex, all of which are showing telltale signs of overmating including bare spots on their backs and bald spots on their heads from where the roosters grab onto the hens with their claws and beaks during mating. To be fair, there are times when a lady hen appears to be seeking some male companionship, but most of the time the roosters’ affections do not appear to be reciprocated by the hens. Another thing I’ve learned is that roosters can be quite sneaky when looking for love. Often times the roosters will call the hens over for something tasty to eat they’ve discovered in the pasture only to try to get a little something in return. Many times I’ve seen an unsuspecting hen pecking in the dirt with her fluffy bottom raised high in the air (apparently too much for a rooster to resist) get snuck up on from behind by a frisky rooster.
There is one measure I’ve read about which is supposed to protect hens from overmating and that is to put what is called a chicken saddle on them – which is not exactly what it sounds like. It’s a piece of cloth that covers a hen’s back where she is experiencing feather loss and which allows her feathers to grow back while being protected from further damage by the rooster. My sewing skills are rather limited, but for the sake of one of my favorite hens, Squeaky, I decided to undertake one of my first sewing projects in many years and make her a chicken saddle. The chicken saddle is secured to the chicken by elastic bands with snaps at the end which wrap around their wings at what equates to their shoulder and then snaps in place under their armpit. Luckily Squeaky is one of my friendliest hens, and she often runs over to me for some petting when I enter the chicken pasture so I figured she’d be a good candidate for the chicken saddle experiment. She let me put the saddle on her with minimal objection, but then proceeded to run around the pasture in large circles as if trying to run away from the saddle. It was quite comical, but I immediately realized that that was about as far as this experiment was going to go. I called her name, and to my surprise she came right over to me despite the fact that I was the one who had so recently subjected her to this uncomfortable garment. She let me pick her up and sat patiently on my lap while I removed the saddle. For now, the ladies will have to put up with a bit too much affection from the boys, and I may end up having to rehome another rooster to allow the ladies to return to their beautiful fully feathered selves.