Chicken diapers...even I couldn't make this one up

I have three kids that are all now (thankfully) past the diaper stage. I have no idea how many diapers I changed, but I don't have a huge desire to start doing it again, especially for chickens.

Yes, there are now diapers for chickens.

I understand the whole urban chicken concept. I don't actually have many issues with it if it's done right - but that's a big IF, unfortunately. Keep your chickens on your property, don't do it if you have young kids or other high risk individuals in the household, use good basic hygiene practices, feed them right, don't get roosters, and don't run screaming to the newspapers or local politicians if some get eaten by carnivorous urban wildlife. The nuisance and risk of backyard poultry can be limited.

Live chickens inside the house... that's another story.

Chickens aren't house pets in my world. I'm not sure if the chickens benefit at all from living in a house with people, and it's probably actually detrimental in many ways. I'm not sure what the benefit is to people either. Although I haven't seen any studies on this specific topic, it stands to reason that keeping a chicken indoors would be associated with a fairly high risk of widespread contamination of the household with bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter, two bugs that cause millions of infections in humans every year.

I'm all for risk mitigation, including using creative (and sometimes off-the-wall) measures - but diapers for chickens?  Not so much.

Yet, Pampered Poultry makes diapers for your indoor chickens, and not just run-of-the-mill diapers: they're (allegedly) both functional and fashionable. This isn't the only company that sells chicken diapers either, much to my surprise.

One website states "Our chicken diapers are not just for the fashion obsessed hen. They offer your and your home protection against the inevitable! Our diapers fit comfortably and allow you to enjoy your birds in the house or car [car?] without worry."

Does using chicken diapers make sense?

I have a hard time believing these diapers are very useful. They probably do reduce the burden of pathogens that are deposited in the environment, but they are presumably far from 100% effective at containing all of a bird's droppings. It's also likely that chickens are contaminated with these bacteria on other parts of their bodies. Thinking you've eliminated the risk of household contamination from your pet poultry by using diapers isn't logical. The diapers also need to be changed (risk of more contamination) and disposed (don't we have enough waste already?) or washed (risk of cross-contaminating other items).

If you want fashionable chickens, go ahead and dress them up in diapers. Nothing says haute couture like a chicken walking around the living room in pink floral undies. Just don't convince yourself that you're reducing the infectious disease risk for other animals and people in the house. Better yet, let the chickens be chickens and keep them in a proper coop outside. I've seen too many indoor goats, pigs, miniature horses and other species with profound health problems from owners thinking they're just like people.

Apart from diapers, the store also sells "saddles" for the chickens. I'm not even going to start on that one.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
EAW - May 20, 2013 10:17 AM

On the one hand, I agree strongly with the issues that come from species-inappropriate housing of traditional barnyard animals. [On a historical note, it's actually fairly recently that people shifted animals completely out of the living area (if only for a lack of multiple rooms and buildings). (The concept is older than pasturization, which is IMO another sign of advanced civilization.)]

I do question the absolute prohibition against "barnyard animals" or diapered animals in human housing - we do, after all, allow dogs, cats, parrots, fish, rabbits, hamsters, etc throughout the house. And not just the West - I recall stories of desert nomads who kept their most favored (and most likely to be stolen) horses in their tents. I also know of herders (American) who keep orphan lambs & kids in the house for a handful of weeks each year.

All of this is not to say that the modern Western home typically has chickens under the table, goat kids on top of the fridge, or dogs running on treadmills by the hearth. But to simply say "this is a barnyard animal" creates, I think, an artificial division of domestic animals.

As for chicken saddles - they are for people who keep flocks with roosters (despite your recommendation.) The roos tend to tread on the backs of hens during breeding. The resulting alopecia & lesions tend to be unsightly and difficult to treat, particularly in food animals. Saddles are for protecting the hens.

Melanie - July 7, 2013 9:32 AM

I have been in touch with Mary-Britton Clouse who operates chicken run rescue, and she claims that hens make excellent indoor pets.
I adopted (4 days ago) 2 hens rescued from a 72,000 layer facility where they were 5 in a small battery cage.When originally rescued, their claws were apparently 6 inches long, from not having been able to walk or scratch the ground.
I plan to transition them indoors. They are underweight, had their beaks chopped when babies, two types of lice, mites, and an infected accessory toe (essential for walking and perching). Thankfully, I have an understanding vet.
The contamination issue is of concern to me, but I do believe the diapers work very well, but require frequent changing. As a vegan household, I have a lower exposure to salmonella, MRSA, and other pathogens found on meat. I'd like to see the research to determine how significant the salmonella, e.coli, campilobacter and MRSA exposure is compared to the average pet-owning household.

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