Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Diapers--What???

What? A Chicken Diaper?         photo: Shobe Biz Communications

When you ask analytic chemist Ruth Haldeman why she invented her business Chicken Diapers in 2002, she said, "Necessity is the mother of invention. I had two 'little ones' in the house. They were making such a mess."

Haldeman works as a lab manager at Layne, a global water management, construction and drilling company, in Kansas during the weekday and sews chicken diapers on the weekend.  
It's an onerous task, the making of chicken diapers, and production is handled entirely by herself.

"It's difficult integrating the business with full-time work and family. I don't sleep much," confessed Haldeman, " But, my family understands how important it is to me and, for that, I am very thankful."

The chicken stories that really touch Haldeman's heart are those concerning injured chickens that need diapers so they can be kept inside for rehabilitation and therapy birds that need diapers in order to take them to hospitals. And, of course, there are those tales about nonprofit rescue birds that require diapers until they are adopted.

She also hears tales about people trying to beat oncoming bad weather by getting their chickens inside. "Those events are a major source of frustration for me," she admitted. "When a storm is coming, people really want to get their diapers. I can't always beat the weather."

If chicken diapers seem like somewhat of an oddity, perhaps Ruth's Chicken Diapers website says it best, "So, you are looking for something to catch the recycled food coming out of the backside of a chicken? You're afraid your friends and relatives think you have a screw loose? Well, fear no more! You are in the company of a steadily growing number of people who have discovered the joys of birdy companionship outside AND inside your home. With so many of us, we can't all be wrong."

Designing the diapers required a bit of trail and error for Haldeman.  "I had an idea and originally constructed the diapers that way. And, then, problems started popping up. I knew I had to re-design them to make them work," said Haldeman.

Haldeman points out that there are special requirements to be able to diaper a bird. A bird needs to have a tail knob and stiff tail feathers. Usually a bird doesn't acquire these until he or she is four weeks old.

She also talks about the Chicken Diaper design, how it helps keep the bird's feathers clean and channels droppings away from the bird with the diaper's containment pouch. She notes that the diapers don't bother the daily life of the chicken in any way. The chickens can still access their oil gland, sit and walk about. 

The mostly woven cotton-blend diapers come in a variety of colors. They are washable, quick drying, and have adjustable elastic straps that allow for the chicken comfort and movement. The diapers are also disposable if used without the plastic liner.

The design for the diapers was originally posted online but then Haldeman kept receiving requests for already sewn diapers. That was when her business was born.

Haldeman's brilliant invention has stiff competition from businesses like MyPetChicken.com. When asked about her competitors, Haldeman said, "I'm not concerned because I am not in it for the money. My prices are very low compared to other sites." In fact, Chicken Diapers sells their diapers in a variety of 18 colors ranging from $9 to $14 depending on the size of the birds. For birds over 16", a special price is given. Competitor MyPetChicken.com diapers are available in five colors and sell for $28 per diaper.

"I don't do a big volume of business," said Haldeman, even though orders come in from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. "I did receive an order from Italy once. It was very complicated because they wrote it in Italian. I'm sure the instructions were all garbled because I used an online translator," she said with a laugh.

Haldeman's love for chickens is evident in the tone of her voice and the words she chooses. When asked about her company and its future growth she said, "It's not about the money. This company I am doing for my soul."

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