Retired Women Knitting Club Creates Chicken Sweaters to Keep Them Cozy
There is nothing like a sweater to keep us warm during the frigid winter months — especially one that is home-made. Our animals could benefit from the woolly comfort as well — including chickens.
At this time of year, hens go through a shedding process called ‘molt’ where they lose their feathers and re-grow them. With less warmth because of the loss of feathers, one group of retirees in Milton, Massachusetts have put their knitting caps on fashioning a way to keep our poultry cozy.
Members of the knitting club in the Fuller Village retirement home have put their talents to use by creating chicken sweaters to benefit birds kept on a neighboring estate known as the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust. Many of the retirees have been knitting since their teens.
“I don’t think in my wildest dreams I ever thought anybody made sweaters for chickens,” Barbara Widmayer, 76, told Associated Press.
The knitters, who were more accustomed to creating blankets, hats, dolls, and scarves for needy children, took on the project when they learned about a tiny rooster native to Malaysia named Prince Peep, who shivers in all New England seasons. Widmayer volunteered to style one for Prince Peep.
During molt, chickens typically stop laying eggs. Estate spokeswoman Erica Max claimed egg production noticeably jumped since the birds began wearing their sweaters.
Apparently chicken sweaters is not a fowl fad. The British Hen Welfare Trust — a battery rescue hen organization in the U.K. — is believed to be the start of the chicken sweater to protect many who lost their feathers from a lifetime of imprisonment in tiny cages. These birds are often missing a lot of their feathers because of the cramped, stressful conditions they live in. However the site itself does not mention anything about a sweater to keep hens safe against the harsh winter elements. Instead they recommend “covering the coop overnight with an old carpet, blankets, bubble wrap.”
There is another theory from the opposite end of the chicken coop suggesting that while chicken sweaters are great for photo ops, they can be downright dangerous.
Kathy Shea Mormino of the Chicken Chick blog adamantly states, “just say no to chicken sweaters.” Her manifesto lists several reasons against them — the first that sweaters prevent the chicken’s natural regulation of their body temperature. Also, in freezing temperatures, the average backyard chicken in the midst of a hard molt would be better served to stay warm in a basement crate or garage rather than with a sweater.
Whether you are for or against chickens wearing sweaters, they certainly make for a chick fashion statement.