Ruffling Feathers: Chicken Diapers?
Arkansas woman says her invention has a practical use.
Maybe you have a dog, a cat, or perhaps even a snake.
But what about a pet chicken?
Having a fowl friend is quickly catching on and one Arkansas woman has the business to prove it.
She's created chicken diapers, and a website to sell the, ChickenDiapers.com.
However, poultry experts say this trend has the potential to bring the state's three billion dollar plus poultry business to a halt.
"I had to make some diapers or else they would make a mess everywhere," explains Ruth Haldeman, the Hot Springs chemist who invented chicken diapers.
Haldeman keeps Tenten and three other birds like him in her home.
"Chickens have a lot of personality. They are responsive to people and they definitely have their likes and preferences," she says.
One day last month, Tenten showed his preference for the old red, white and blue with a specially made diaper.
"You've got the pouch and straps that run in between his legs and over," Haldeman explains. "You can put different disposable liners in these."
Haldeman hatched the idea of chickendiapers.com to fill the need for the growing number of people who keep these birds as pets.
"I had posted the pattern online and got all these requests from people for me to sew for them because I guess a lot of people don't sew and someone said hey, you should ask for money, so I guess that's how it got started," says Haldeman.
While there is no way to track how many Arkansans currently keep chickens as pets, word of mouth indicates its becoming more common.
Nao Ueda keeps two of them in a coop outside her downtown Little Rock home.
Ueda does not use diapers, but she admits raising your own birds, indoor or outdoor, has become more popular in the four years she's raised them.
"I just think getting your own eggs, there's nothing like it," Ueda says.
But in a state were roosters rules the roost, experts say keeping chickens at home raises the risk of turning the state's multi-billion dollar poultry industry into a goose egg.
"If you added up the cash value of rice, cotton, soybeans, wheat, millet and corn, all those together would equal the value of poultry raised in Arkansas," explains Marvin Childers, president of the Poultry Federation representing Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. "The potential to stop the international trade of poultry."
Childers says while commercial flocks are closely monitored for diseases like Avian Flu, backyard flocks are not, which he says opens the risk for the spread of disease.
"One outbreak of Avian Influenza in one chicken in Arkansas could lead to the complete disruption of the trade, internationally for Arkansas poultry," Childers says. "We're not trying to say that folks shouldn't have a right to start a business, we simply want the general public to know about the risks."
Still, Ruth Haldeman is confident in what she's doing, saying the creation of the diapers and care for her own chickens is good for her karma.
"Some of them are quite smart, some are not, but give them a chance," she says.
Or, in Tenten's case, give him a diaper.
The diapers Tenten wears cost $11.50 each.
Haldeman has clients around the world, but not many in Arkansas.