Just call her chicken pants: Hen’s fashions help her get around
What do you think when you hear the phrase chicken pants? Well, we can tell you that they’re not just to cover up the second half of the childhood back-and-forth that starts with “Guess what.” Here at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, chicken pants are just one of the tools dreamed up to help Polly Pocket, a hen born with twisted legs and hips.
Typically, it’s possible to correct a chick’s limbs with special shoes. Her original family did try that, but it didn’t work. At the same time, she was being bullied by her siblings, and they weren’t letting her eat. It was a rough period for a little chick who could barely stand on her own. By the time she arrived at the Sanctuary, it was too late to correct her legs. But caregivers, family and friends were soon looking for any and all possible ways to help her move comfortably.
Trial, error and chicken pants
When she first arrived, they tried to again fit her with shoes to hold her feet flat when she moved. But the way they stretched her feet seemed to make her uncomfortable, and since they weren’t going to be able to permanently fix the problem anyway, the chicken shoes were put aside. It was back to the drawing board.
“Her hip kind of splays out and it’s one of the reasons why she can’t walk,” says caregiver Lauren Ross. And Brianna Vlach, supervisor of Wild Friends (where Polly Pocket lives at the Sanctuary), came up with a possible solution. “If something could control that hip and hold it in place, then we could try to come up with something for the foot and that would help her mobility,” said Brianna. “I wish I knew how to crochet.”
As luck would have it, Lauren knew someone who could crochet. And so, chicken pants were born.
“My mom has been very into the chicken pants thing,” Lauren says with a laugh, “and she’s come up with a couple of different ones. Some have little buttons that hold both sides together for her knee and her hip, and go over her back.”
There are little puffy brown pants and blue pants that they call her blue jeans. They worked the way they were meant to, helping align and pull together her hips and legs. But even with her special pants, her feet still prevent her from walking naturally.
Lauren’s mom, a teacher, assigned an art project to her students that has significantly increased Polly Pocket’s collection of mobility-aid fashion items. “They came up with similar stuff, like little shoes,” says Lauren. “There was a Lego shoe, but it didn’t make it.” One student made tall plastic boots that could also support her legs, but they weren’t quite the right size.
“I think the best thing that we’ve come up with is the wheelchair,” Lauren says. It’s made of PVC pipe and with a fitted hammock to hold (Polly’s) body up, but she says Polly doesn’t use it correctly. “She uses it as more like a La-Z-Boy. Once she has the weight off her legs, she will just lounge there instead of actually walking and doing physical therapy.”
While caregivers continue their trial-and-error attempts to find ways to get Polly Pocket back on her feet, she cares more about getting as much attention as possible.
Polly Pocket, the lap chicken
Polly Pocket isn’t a fan of her fellow chickens. And who could blame her after being picked on by her flock? But she absolutely adores her human friends. “She gets right up on our laps and looks for attention,” says Lauren. “And she loves her little head scratches. She’s a sweet girl.”
Clever and curious, she pecks and plays with caregivers’ phone screens and even enjoys watching phone videos of other chickens. There’s nowhere she won’t explore, and despite her wobbly and unsteady gait, she’s fast when she wants to be — especially if she starts flapping her wings and getting air. “She knows what she wants and she does not back down from it,” says Lauren.
Mostly what she wants, though, is attention, more attention and treats. And that’s why her setup right inside the main door is just perfect. When visitors come for tours or to volunteer, Polly Pocket is front and center, ready to greet them. She’ll gently take corn from their hands and accept a nice head scratch or three, basking in the glory of being in the spotlight.
Whether it’s shoes, pants, a lounge chair on wheels or something yet to be discovered, Polly Pocket’s friends and fans aren’t giving up on finding a way for her to move safely and comfortably. It might take a little more brainstorming, but once you’ve come up with chicken pants, nothing seems too wild. Right?
Help more animals like Polly Pocket
When you join Best Friends, you can help animals across the country get back on their feet — even if they don’t need special pants.
Photos by Molly Wald