Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crochet Chicken Sweaters Pattern and Custom-Made Sweaters

I have been having a lot of fun lately designing chicken sweaters with the help of a dear friend back home.  She requested my help with crocheting a few chicken sweaters for her flock and some to sell in her feed store to local farmers.  Through trial and error, we finally came up with the correct measurements for a design that will work on three sizes of chickens.

The crochet pattern is available here, and the finished custom-made sweaters can be ordered here.

Chicken sweaters are not only ridiculously adorable, but they are also actually very practical. During the cooler weather months when chickens tend to molt, they lose some or (in some cases) most of their feathers. Sweaters not only serve to cover the poor, bare hens' exposed skin as a barrier from the cold, but they also protect from the other chickens' natural tendency to peck away at the exposed areas of their peers. Sweaters also serve to protect injured/rescued hens while they heal, and they allow the hens to remain with their flock rather than being separated during the transition.

These chicken sweaters are very simple designs with no buttons, snaps or ties. I made them as simple as possible due to concern that shiny buttons/snaps would be too attractive for poultry peers and actually invite pecking. I also omitted any ties due to the risk of strangulation or choking.

I would recommend to chicken owners to not leave your birds unattended while they are wearing sweaters. If you want your chickens to wear them during the day while they're running free range, that's fine as long as you keep an eye on them. However, I would be hesitant to put them to roost at night wearing them due to safety concerns. My friend, who requested me to make some for her chickens, intends to use them on chickens who are old and losing their feathers or have lost their insulation due to molting.

I have worked on two design options: (1) Crew Neck and (2) Turtle Neck.  The turtle neck option is intended for hens that need protection on their neck, since this area can be affected by rooster "favoritism".


I utilize standard sizing measurements but can make sweaters larger or smaller as indicated. The standard measurements for a medium/average sized hen are 7.5 inches from the neck to the bottom hem, 2.5 inches wide at the neck (with a 2 inch opening), 6 inches wide at the bottom hem. No ties or buttons are required for holding in place. The sides are open for the wings to slide through, which actually helps to hold it in place. Also, the front & back panels connect at the bottom to hold it snug to the chicken's body.

My friend tested the first sweater on one of her sweet hens, Annabelle. Since the first sweater version was a bit too wide between the wings and drooped in the front, she used string to take it in for a more snug fit--like the revised sweaters I've made. She then observed how the hen tolerated wearing the sweater. So far, so good!

Annabelle's coop mates were interested in her new apparel, but after about 10 minutes, they lost interest and stopped pecking at it.  My friend said it was as though they were trying to help her get it off at first... "You have something on your back.  Let me help you with that..." kind of thing.

Here are a few photos of the trial period. In the photo of the hen laying on the table, her gentle and calm demeanor is shown as my friend makes sweater alterations. In the other photos, the hen is getting around quite well wearing the sweater. She even decided to hop on the scale for a bit (She weighs 3.5 lbs, by the way).

This chicken sweater design development has been fun! I am so grateful for my friend's assistance during the process. Without the help of her supermodel hens, it would be much more difficult to achieve the correct sizing. Plus it's been a great opportunity to catch up with a good friend!

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