The headline on this Mother Nature Network piece—Does Your Chicken Need A Diaper?—certainly caught The Takeout staff’s attention as we collectively sipped our morning coffees. I have five semi-cute, semi-evil backyard chickens as well as a completely justified fear that I’ll somehow fail them as a chicken mom. So the question—does my chicken need a diaper?—actually made me pause for a split-second before I concluded, solidly, no. No, they do not.
The diapers, as the MNN article states, are sanitary safeguards for pet chickens that people let hang out in their homes. Most people don’t do that with their chickens, in my experience, on account of the mess and the noise and the food-safety concerns pursuant to livestock pooin’ in your kitchen. Aside from the few weeks the newly hatched chicks spent in my basement in a confined container under a heat lamp, the backyard chickens have always been backyard chickens. Because, again, and I cannot repeat this enough, they poop everywhere. A lot. It’s pretty much their favorite pastime.
But apparently the house chicken phenomenon is more widespread than I thought, because the chicken-diaper maker mentioned in the article, Crazy K Farms, has sold about 5,000 of them at $29.99 a pop since 2011. (Hardly chicken shit.) The fabric hen holster diaper-harness combo uses reusable plastic diaper liners that can be cleaned, or a new model comes with a permanent sewn-in liner that presumably can be washed. Oh, you can also slap a D-ring leash on that harness and walk your chicken, just like Jennifer Garner! (It bears noting that Jennifer Garner’s pet chicken is named Hennifer. Carry on.)
My only experience with accessorizing my chickens came months ago, and it ended in a flurry of feathers and scratches and four-letter expletives. One of my chickens, a speckled Sussex named Left Eye, has a slightly pendulous crop, a not uncommon anatomical anomaly in chickens. It means that the crop, which is part of her digestion system, isn’t supported by her chest muscles and so droops down a bit. This can be alleviated, I read, by outfitting the hen with a bra.
Yes, readers, I spent more than $20 hard-earned dollars on a fabric chicken bra I found online—but not before trying to fashion one myself out of an old athletic sock.
Have you ever tried to stuff a grown hen into a sock? I wouldn’t recommend it. Squawking, wings flapping, legs scratching, Left Eye was steadfastly not having it with the sock. Fine. So I ponied up for the premade fabric chicken bra, only to find it met the same fate. Left Eye and I wrestled a little; I eventually got one strap of it on her, and that was the best I could do. She hated the thing so violently that I ultimately gave up and just let her strut around without it.
Her crop issue hasn’t proven to be a hindrance to her, it seems: She lays eggs, scratches for bugs, does all the normal hen stuff. And all that without a bra or diaper, just like chickens have done for centuries. The most damning argument against chicken diapers, though? Hens wearing them wouldn’t be able to participate in Instagram’s greatest chicken-related hashtag: #fluffybuttfriday.