Sweaters for chickens? It sounds like a joke, but a plucky group of retirees in suburban Boston has hatched a plan to keep poultry warm during the New England winter.
The unusual project began after members of a knitting club at Fuller Village, a retirement home in Milton, Mass., heard about the hardships that some chickens suffer this time of year.
Certain breeds shed their feathers and grow new plumage in the winter months. Others imported from tropical climates just aren’t suited for the wintry conditions.
Organizer Nancy Kearns said the project benefits birds kept on a neighbouring estate known as the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust.
“I don’t think in my wildest dreams I ever thought anybody made sweaters for chickens,” said Barbara Widmayer, 76, who started knitting when she was 15 years old.
Among the sweaters Widmayer crafted by hand was one for Prince Peep, a rooster native to Malaysia.
Another knitter, 76-year-old Libby Kaplan, said the experience has helped her to overcome her fear of birds.
“One person I heard say there were more important things to do in this world. ‘Make things for people that need it.’ I think animals need to be warm, too, and I’m so glad we did it,” Kaplan said.
Estate spokeswoman Erica Max says egg production has jumped noticeably since the birds began wearing them.
“I’m not sure that we can show scientific results, but we’ve definitely seen some improvement in our egg production,” Max said.
It’s got some members of the club wondering what exotic project to take on next.
Kearns said someone gave her an article about a need for blankets and other items at an elephant refuge in India. Making something pachyderm-sized, she joked, might be a little too ambitious.
“Probably not something we’re going to do,” she said. “But you never know.”