The Story of
I’d always dreamed of having chickens. However, in the city where I grew up, land is scarce and unafford- able. Keeping chickens was nothing but a pipe dream.
It is therefore not surprising that my husband and I bought
our first home with the idea of keeping chickens in mind.
We were both big-city folk and didn’t know anything
about rural or country living. Little did we know that keeping chickens would lead us to a homesteading lifestyle—
one that was unimaginable to us at that time. Keeping
chickens even led to a business. That business, however,
was not the egg business we’d envisioned. Selling eggs
would later prove to be unprofitable for us.
Before getting our chickens, we read everything we could
lay our hands on about keeping chickens. We turned an
existing greenhouse into a coop and added a run. Finally,
we bought our first flock. We were ambitious and got more
than forty chicks comprised of various breeds, including Orphingtons, Cochins, Silkies, Turkens, Houdans
and Rhode Island Reds. We ran our coop like a hobby
and grew attached to our chickens, especially the more
personable ones like our Speckled Sussex, which we rather
unoriginally named . . . Speck.
As the years passed, our flock grew to more than a hundred fowl comprised of eighty chickens, plus geese and
ducks. We’d lost some chickens, but none affected us more
than the sudden loss of Speck. That day, my heart sank
when I saw the body lying lifelessly on the ground. It was
Speck, our beloved hen. The flock had exacerbated her
mating injuries, and she’d succumbed.
Hen saddles could have prevented her death. I’d read
about hen saddles before but never thought much of them.
In a nutshell, it is a protective poultry device worn by fowl
to protect their backs from mating or molting injuries.
However, I’d not thought about “saddling” my flock until
“Why don’t you find some patterns online and sew some
saddles?” my husband asked. I cringed at the thought of
having to sew eighty saddles! Even less savory was the
thought of having to launder and maintain all those coverings. I certainly did not want to hand wash hen saddles nor
run these soiled items through my washer. Nevertheless, I
searched online and found many well-sewn, pretty saddles.
The total cost to buy more than eighty saddles, however,
My chickens needed saddles, but I wasn’t willing to sew
them, launder them, or buy them. But I was undeterred.
We had to come up with something else. After some
brainstorming, we felt that a vinyl material would probably
work best for our little experiment. With little money to
invest, we had to keep our startup costs to the absolute
minimum. To help save money, I contacted some distributors and asked them for sample material—in pieces, but as
large as they could spare.
Armed with our new material, we got to work, testing out
various design ideas. Some designs were too difficult to
cut, others simply would not stay on the chicken for long.
Fortunately, there was one economical design that worked
very well. It was easy to make and didn’t need to be sewn.
The vinyl material meant that it didn’t need to be laundered, merely hosed clean. It also stayed on the chicken
well. After a year of testing our saddles through the rigors
of a chicken coop in harsh Colorado weather, we felt confident that our invention would be able to fill a micro-niche
market for backyard chicken-keepers who were in situations similar to ours.
Growing a Business