How much should you pamper your poultry? You could say it depends
Chicken diapers and the growing movement to pamper pet poultry
Scroll through your Instagram feed and you'll see plenty of dogs in sweaters, cats in bowties, and now... chickens in diapers?
Julie Baker is from Claremont, New Hampshire, and is the founder of Pampered Poultry, a company that specializes in chicken diapers and other poultry attire — including tutus and dresses.
She said that although the diapers are a definite fashion statement, they also serve a practical purpose.
"Chickens aren't very potty-trainable animals. They sort of go to the bathroom wherever they happen to be at the moment, and they go to the bathroom pretty frequently," Baker said.
So if you need to transport your bird to a state fair, nurse a sick chick back to health inside your home, or just want some TV time with your poultry pal — a reusable chicken diaper can make all the difference.
"Who plans to sell chicken diapers for a living?"
Baker said she fell into the business by accident. In 2008, she was homeschooling her daughter and kept a small flock of chickens in her backyard.
Her daughter brought the chickens inside often, resulting in plenty of messes that Baker needed to clean up. After finding out about chicken diapers on YouTube, she made some for herself.
"I really did not expect that we were going to be selling them, certainly not to the point that I would be staying up until midnight sewing chicken diapers," she said.
Now, they sell anywhere from 500 to 1000 chicken diapers per month, depending on the time of year.
The diapers are made in the Dominican Republic, as part of a non-profit sewing co-operative called "Sewing My Future." Baker helped teach local women how to sew, and now employs 6 women who help make chicken diapers in Puerto Plata.
"The amazing effect that it's had on their lives has really motivated me to sort of stay in the game and keep evolving," Baker said. "Every time we sell a chicken diaper I know that they're sending their kids to school and that they're going to bed with full bellies."
The newest feathered family member
Baker said one of the reason the diapers have caught on is because of the rise of the backyard chicken movement.
More cities are allowing residents to keep small flocks in their backyards, including Toronto, which began a three-year pilot project earlier this year.
Baker said the more people begin to keep chickens in urban settings, the more they are understanding the animals.
"They're sort of familiarizing themselves with the kind of complex social structure that chickens have," Baker explained. "They have a lot more personality than the average person might attribute to a chicken."
As people begin to recognize how affectionate and intelligent chickens are, they're welcoming them into the family, she added. To her, this is why people are diapering their chickens.
"When they're sick they want to take care of them. And when the children are collecting the eggs the children are bonding with them and its okay for the children to interact with them and play dress-up with them and join them in their tea parties."
She believes that as people begin to understand chickens better, they will treat the birds with more respect overall.
"So even the birds that aren't coming into the house are still having sanitary, clean, spacious living conditions and that people are growing up understanding that they need to respect that really important food source."
"I don't think it's like a pet rock kind of trend."
Baker believes the diapers are more than just the latest Internet fad, and that one day they'll be on the same level as dogs in dresses.
She may not be sure where the market for chicken nappies is headed in the coming years, but she doesn't expect the buzz to stop anytime soon.
In fact, she thinks it's going to become the norm.
"It's going to be less shocking, less headline-y, and more just like 'eh, chicken diapers — it's a thing!'"
To hear the full interview with Julie Baker, download our podcast or click the listen button at the top of this page.