All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

Henny, no feathers, sunbathing

Henny sunbathing – with no feathers on her back, the sun felt good on her belly. Don’t her shoulders look sore?

We had a feather problem in our coop – Henny didn’t have any on her back (or shoulders). I mean NONE. From above, she looked like the proverbial Christmas Goose, ready for the oven. The top photo was taken in May (which is autumn here) when she was trying to moult. See the one tiny pin feather and one bit of down? Tragic. Random feathers kept coming in and then vanishing.

IMG_4745-001IMG_4825-001When we got Henny in November, her previous owner said 2 hens to one rooster had never been a problem before. But just recently Henny had started losing feathers. (They were 2 years old, should I believe their old owner that Henny’s problem was only now becoming visible?) Regardless of her past, her present was patchy and her future was looking problematic. This de-feathering was a sad state brought on by too much brotherly love. Literally. Lenny, her brother, was loving her bald. I’ve read that roosters can mate 50 times a day and, by the state of Henny’s back and wings, I reckon Henny was his victim (aka, true love) for 49 of those. Penny remained fluffy and chicken-like.

The lack of feathers grieved me more than it did Henny. And it didn’t seem to bother her brother at all. He still hopped on for a ride whenever the urge struck. Which was clearly too often. She ran the real risk of cuts and abrasions any time Lenny mounted her. It was just horrid.

IMG_4812IMG_4859-002WP_20140208_003-001So I made Henny a chicken saddle (I called it a jacket which I first heard about from Eddie at mygardenmychickens and got some help from Lil – thank you!). I made mine out of soft denim which should have been very comfy and durable. The unappreciative hen pecked at it a while but then settled down and ignored it. Then she took it off (somehow) so I reduced the jacket size and tried it again and then she threw it off and… This went on for a while until I gave up.

Realising that the jacket wasn’t working and that Lenny wouldn’t give up, I panicked. The nights were getting cold, Henny would start her moult soon and she’d miss her chance to get her feathers back (chickens won’t grow replacement feathers until they moult which means you have one, maybe 2 shots a year at re-feathering a hen). So we got Holly, Molly & Polly which I posted about here. Henny and Penny were kept in half of the run all by themselves with Lenny relegated to living in the low-rent digs with the new girls. From 21 May 2014 (right after writing that post about opening the run at night – we decided that wasn’t going to work) Lenny wasn’t ever let into the half of the run with Henny & Penny and watch what happens to Henny’s feathers! The photo at the top of this post was taken on 21 May, just 5 days later…


26 May 2014

Henny getting new feathers

30 May 2014. At this point we thought her shoulders were scarred and would be feather-free for life


2 June 2014


6 June 2014 – look, she’s moulting everywhere


6 June 2014


12 June 2014


15 June 2014


24 June 2014 – she looks like a real chicken. She’s a bit pale and her tail feathers aren’t really in yet but she’s clothed!




























Barely one month from the day I separated Lenny and Henny, I had gone from a chicken screaming out for a roasting tray to one that’s all dressed up … but locked in her run.

Now, time to start thinking about merging our 2 mini-flocks….


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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9 Responses to All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

  1. gillybirds says:

    It’s amazing how quickly new feathers grow. She looks much happier now she is getting a break from all that love! Good luck with the flock merging.

  2. looks like a success story. we have 2 broody’s who are defeathered on their backs at the moment, but I think it is the other hens pecking them as they get in the way in the nest box.

    • Competition for nest boxes can be brutal, but my girls don’t peck, they just whine. I feel so sorry for them if someone is sitting when they need to sit!!!

      I’ve yet to have a broody hen. I don’t like the sound of it and I’m hoping my girls all remain sensible.

  3. She looks beautiful. I bet she is so happy. But how weird that Lenny started pecking at her after the others came.

    • I know, it’s weird. I still have the 2 “families” separated with Henny (fully clothed) and Penny in their own half of the run. Sometimes I see Lenny charge at the fence when one of them is near it. Henny used to run away when he did that, now she just ignores him. She’s obviously figured out he can’t get her. But what will happen when I try remerging them? Hubby’s overseas right now and I’ve got enough on my plate so I’m leaving the birds in 2 flocks but I figure by summer they have to be living as one flock again. Unless Lenny remains a brute. Men!

      • 😉 I agree not to try it while your hubby is overseas but it will have to happen sometime. I am thinking of increasing my flock by 3 this Spring. I hope I have a smooth journey.

        • I hope you do too!

          I suppose we could keep 2 flocks forever but I feel sorry for them, especially at treat time when no matter who I’m feeding, half of the chickens feel left out. And they have half the space to wander and scratch in. There is nothing growing in their little run – you need a pretty big run to keep something growing with 6 chicken scratching, but still, double the territory to scratch in would have to be preferable for my chickens.

  4. Pingback: Coop Scoop | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

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