E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
The hen in Chaucers Nuns Priests Tale, and in the tale of Reynard the Fox (fourteenth century). So called from the partlet or loose collar of the doublet, referring to the frill-like feathers round the neck of certain hens. (A partlet was a ruff worn in the 16th century by women.)
In the barn the tenant cock
Close to partlet perched on high.
Sister Partlet with her hooded head, allegorises the cloistered community of nuns in Drydens Hind and Panther, where the Roman Catholic clergy are likened to barnyard fowls.