This is Blondie, the hen who was pecked on my bad day. That was about nine days ago. She's been in an isolation cage within the coop while her wound worked on healing. Yesterday when I went to fill her water I was thinking "I wonder when I should let her back in with the others" and she just pushed her way right past me into the open coop! So that answered the question.
Luckily it was my day off, because a few hours later I checked her and her wound had been reopened. No one was pecking her when I checked, I expect one of the young cockerels was too enthusiastic in mating her. In any case I popped her back into the isolation cage and came inside to do some research.
Which is how we ended up with a chicken saddle.
The goal is to keep the back and sides covered either when she's being mated, or when she or others choose to peck at the wounded area. I saw an elaborate machine sewn model with decorative embroidery on it. Uh, I'm sure their chickens really appreciated the folksy heart motif. And I saw one made of duct tape. Apparently it is eventually sloughed off with the old feathers. I haven't entirely written that one off, but hoped not to have to have something actually adhered to her. So I modeled ours after a pattern I found online.
I used a red felt fabric leftover from Christmas. Just cut out a square about 8" x 8", then cut slits in the wing spaces (where the pattern has "holes" showing) and ran a wide red ribbon through them. Out to the barn to try it out.
But it only took a moment before she was showing it off. In the photo above you can sort of see how it wraps around her breast. I'm a little concerned that it might not stay on well, but I'll check her regularly today.
Once I knew she was leaving it alone, I let the others in. They did not seem very interested in her. So I left to allow them to visit. I'll check back in an hour.
And that's the end of the story. Really.
Addendum 11:54 am. The saddle slipped under her. I had to take it off. Then the hens started pecking her so she's back in isolation. Might have to try the duct tape after all.