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Halloween Costumes for Chickens Anyone? Our Polish Crested Family, Brains, Beauty, Rusticity and Fangs

Although I am really serious about organic agriculture and totally committed to sharing ideas about forest garden poultry, most of what we do on a daily basis here is also a lot of fun. And to reflect that in this blog post, I write these words 'and now for something completely different....'

Chamois Polish chick in Halloween costume
Wispy - a very noble and ethereal Halloween hen!
If you have been following my posts or films then you will know that we have some very beautiful and friendly Polish crested poultry and this year is no exception. Our Polish hen Giddy, (hatched in the garden three years ago by Garbo), herself went broody in Spring and in true eccentric crested Polish fashion, had a protracted hatch in the very top corner of the dovecote. So protracted in fact that I had to get in a permanent foster mother for the first two chicks, as Giddy was glued to the nest. In effect things worked out really well, as the mother I chose was Slippers and as expected, she became a fantastic, caring mother. One of her chicks is a pure chamois crested Polish Frizzle (pictured above in full vampire costume) and the other is a very happy-go-lucky fluffy chamois chick of Bunny, Giddy's half-sister who was also laying in the dove cote.

Golden Polish chick in vampire costume
Cute & cuddly not the usual vampiric epithet
The Polish crested are a very ancient race and looking at our family, including the magnificent golden black-laced frizzled Father, Spike, I got the idea they would make brilliant Gothic portraits, particularly the chamois Frizzles, who both have an ethereal, other-worldly look. Similarly our cute little golden chick (right) whose crest has a double Bela Lugosi, widow's peak! Rather than just mock up the portraits I decided to make vampyre costumes for them all and then photograph them and frame them all in an old Hogarth frame I have on the kitchen wall. Our golden chick is so laid-back, I used him as a model to plan the design and check all the fittings. In case he got bored with this, I gave him a treat each time, so he actually loved putting on the costume, as he associated it with pasta, which he adores! I've also entered them all in the Halloween costume contest on Instructables just for fun and also because they have some great prizes including a camera and a sewing machine. Rather spookily and as I was about to sew up Spike's vampyre waistcoat, my sewing machine started to ooze a waterfall of smoke from its base very much in the way Dracula transmogrifies into mist to gain entrance to Lucy's room through the sash window in Bram Stoker's masterpiece. Similarly the automatic focus started to play up on our camera lens, the moment I started to take chicken vampyre pictures. So wish me luck!

Frizzled Polish chick in vampire costumeMATERIALS

I spent nothing on these costumes, as I made them all out of remnants, old clothes, bits of ribbon, upcycled beads from an old cardigan, broken junk jewellery, end-of-sale Christmas decorations and the fabric of a black dress I had started to make years ago and found at the bottom of the wardrobe, still pinned to the pattern pieces!

DESIGN

My design was based on a baby's bib shape as I believed this would be an easy none threatening design to work on for a chicken. As you perhaps have seen in my blog, I've already made winter coats for our older Frizzles based on turkey saddles or hen aprons to successfully combat cold stress. However, to make these costumes work from the front, I needed to design something which looped over the head and fastened securely around the back. In fact just like a baby's bib. This could then be quite elaborate in design but easy to put on and take off and comfortable to wear. The main remit for this whole project was to have fun, all of us including the chicks and to cause no stress or angst to any of us in its execution! Furthermore, for Giddy's costume, I decided to add a press stud to the loop over the head, since, as her name suggests, she can get worried by unusual happenings and I didn't want to cause her any possible stress. I also made her back fastening as just a simple two ribbon tie, as I knew she would be impatient with me fastening a hook and eye!

3 Chicken costume designs Halloween

Homemade Halloween chick costume
My idea was for a Gothic, aristocratic vampire style and I created several fake orders and sashes to give the appropriate look. I actually researched how these were worn. The orders should be paired with a white tie but the only white ribbon I had was too thin to make a good bow and looked tacky, so I changed to black and grey. As I saw a picture of a member of a Royal family at an event in a black bow tie and order, I guessed it was no big deal! For the least possible stress to the chicken and for the best possible costume, I decided to base the male costumes on a 1920's 'boiled' shirt and dress waistcoat and the female ones on a dress with a stiffened yoke. This meant there would be nothing distracting or uncomfortable but I hoped it would look elegant and fit well. I also wanted a filmic look too, so used just four colours and to add to the Gothic look, sculpted and ruched my fabrics for the dresses. This also fitted well with my choice of frames, which was an old Hogarth (yellow mount and black and gold border). So I chose bold colours, which enhanced in particular the wispy, ghostly, ethereal look of the chamois Frizzles. I also went with the old artistic and early Expressionist cinema idea that if you were going to portray the illusion of horror or spookiness then your designs should be asymmetrical.

MEASUREMENTS

If your birds have not been handled much before, then it is a good idea to do the measurements at night and somewhere warm, where they will feel relaxed. The pictures below show me following the old maxim of 'measure twice cut once'. I had already measured them in the garden but still wanted to check again before I started on the design. As previously mentioned, these costumes, would fit from the front and be fastened by a loop over the head and with a ribbon and hook and eye fastening over the back. Therefore the measurements I took were:

Measuring golden Polish chick for a costume



from the nape of the neck and then along the back for the length of cape (more of this later)




Measuring chamois Polish hen for a costume





across the top of the breastbone




Measuring chamois Polish hen for a costume



from the top of the breastbone around the back of the head and to the other side, to give me the length of the head loop



Measuring chamois Polish chick for a costume





a guesstimate of the length of the 'bib', which also gave me a rough idea of the width of its base
Measuring golden Polish rooster for a costume





the circumference of the body, to work out the length of ribbon needed for the back ties.






SHIRT FABRICATION AND DESIGN CHANGES

Golden crested Polish chick costume fitting
Bela made an excellent model
Starting with the idea that I would plan all my costumes around a base template of a 'bib' cut in heavy duty hat stiffener, I cut a trial piece for the small chick and tried it on him. In fact, I tried the costume on Bela, at different stages in the design process and I altered some of my original ideas because of comfort and practicality as well as aesthetics. I will show you these stages too, as I think they are an important part of the process and may be of help.

During the fitting, I found the costume was too rigid and so I amended the design to cut the stiffener in half and just use it at the top of the shirt. I then cut two pieces of the soft cotton shirt material to give the required dress-shirt front stiffness but pliable enough to fit comfortably around the small chick's body contour.

making a shirtfront costume for a rooster
The stiffener for the large shirt, Spike's, I cut like an old-fashioned 'boiled' or dress shirt with the stiffener looking rather like a flat topped mushroom, I then tacked this to just one thickness of soft cotton as intended in the original design.

MAKING THE WAISTCOAT AND FASTENINGS

vampire costume for a chicken


The waistcoat followed a 1920's/30's design and I just scooped out the centre of my 'bib' pattern and then cut two pieces of scrap soft grey felt and planned to fasten them together with two pearl beads.



A note here about jewels. Birds love shiny things, they are all magpies at heart, so any beads, sequins or other exciting goodies need to be sewn down well to the fabric!

planning a waistcoat for a chicken

The 'bib' nature of the design allowed me to plan everything in the flat. At all stages in my fabrication of the design, I just tacked the elements to the costume with long running stitches (see photo below), that way I allowed for alterations after fitting.

vampire costume for chicken work in progress


As you can see from the photo opposite, I initially had the idea of fastening the waistcoat at the bottom but I found this impractical as Bela caught his claw in it when he tried it on.

vampire costume in progress for chick
By this stage I had fitted Bela's costume again and worked out that the neck loop needed to be shortened and that the ribbons to fasten the costume across the back needed to be positioned half way up the shirt. This seemed much more comfortable and stopped the birds risking getting their claws caught in the ribbons.

making a waistcoat chicken costumes
Having tacked in the double sash of Spike's costume, fitted in the ribbon fasteners and his waistcoat to the shirt, I proceeded to machine stitch the costume together. I then fitted the neck loop to the top of the costume by hand.

THE CAPE - FABRICATION AND ATTACHMENT

cape design in progress Halloween costume chickens
Next I made the small cape. I cut the cape by tracing a six inch sandwich plate onto a piece of paper to get a half circle. I cut two of these, one in black fabric from my abandoned dress and the other from a damaged red silk blouse. I used pinking sheers to get a classic vampire bat effect and also so that the fabric wouldn't fray. I put a running stitch of red silk around the whole cape and then tried it on Bela. I already had the idea that a full cape wouldn't suit. One because it didn't sit well on a chicken and also because birds naturally dislike anything that flaps, it reminds them of hawks and falcons, both of which we have problems with from time to time.

Elegant vampire chicken costume

Vampire costume for a chick
My idea was to draw up the stitching and create a Gothic ruched vampire collar, which would hint at a grand flowing cape. This was then to be attached to the neck loop and finished in a ruched collar at the neck and to hide the top of the waistcoat or dress strap



FABRICATION - DRESSES

vampire costume for chickens
To give some shape to the top of the dresses, I cut a yoke for each in the heavy -weight hat stiffener. This gave a good solid base for anchoring the neck loop.
Vampire costume for chickens
Vampire costume for chickensFor Wispy's dress, I cut a yoke to her measurements and then the fabric several sizes larger (above right). I sculpted this fabric by ruching the material with running stitches.
Halloween vampire costume for chickensHomemade vampire costume for chickens
I then gathered them up in a haphazard way for a classic vampire bodice.

I sewed the fabric to the yoke...



...and decorated it with jewels - very firmly sewn down!


Homemade Vampire costume for my chicken
Chamois Polish frizzled chick in vampire costume


Both yokes then had skirts attached, with fabric remnants cut and then gathered and sewn in an asymmetrical, uneven manner.

I kept trying the dress on Wispy as we went along to make sure the design was comfortable and was fitting and sitting well on the bird. 

The main thing with the design for Giddy was KISS, Keep it Simple Stupid, as Giddy can get flustered and annoyed if anything untoward happens.


Chamois Polish crested hen in vampire costume
Giddy and therefore Giddy's dress has less of the 1800s and more of the 1960s about it. I think it is her bouffant hair do, which I created by default because when she hatched her chicks, they were freaked out by her crest, which Giddy due to her love of compost heaps, had managed to get into rather a state. Although I had washed her crest and I hate doing this because it removes all the natural oils, Giddy had managed to stick her feathers together in such a way that it was impossible to free them. So I gave her a trim and it regrew like this. Thus Giddy's costume has more of Hammer House of Horror than of Lord Byron, Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker and Carl Laemmle Jr. but I think she looks fab. She is also notoriously difficult to photograph as when you pick her up she always expects to be fed and is always on the look out for a tasty snack, as here where she is looking for spiders in the wall.

Golden Polish Rooster in Vampire Costume
You can see Spike looking for spiders too in his photograph but much more casually, as he is actually very used to being photographed and I believe, poses. He's a large rooster/cockerel but looks quite diminutive against the house wall.

This was such great fun to do and I hope if you have chickens or any other animals, birds, creatures or even babies that would suit this sort of costume, you will have fun designing and making them too. There will be a film on this project, also showing more of our crested Polish flock, coming shortly.

Hope you have enjoyed this article and if you have, then think about sharing it, giving it a plus or maybe joining the blog or my YouTube Channel. Also if you are in Instructables then visit the project there too.

..and now the film


All the best and hope to see you next time. Happy Halloween or Samhain from Normandie,
Sue

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©  Sue Cross 2016
 






2 comments:

  1. Truly splendid. I am going to upscale those designs for my pigs=Halloween will never be the same again!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it! I think your pigs will look brilliant in them and as for Trick or Treating you will scoop the pool. All the very best from sunny Normandie, Sue

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