Full disclosure: I’ve never had house chickens and I’ve only changed a handful of human diapers in my life. I think one of the main obstacles for me bringing my birds into the house, and probably for lots of other folks, is the thought of the mess that chickens bring with them. Many pets can be housebroken including rabbits and ferrets, but chickens have some unhygienic habits like pooping wherever, whenever.
I’ve seen folks MacGyver household items like socks and disposable face masks into a makeshift diaper. I’d say these were useful in a pinch if you had to bring a chicken into the house on a short term basis, but wouldn’t be suitable (or hygienic) for long due to the accumulation of poop against their feathers and skin.
When I want to learn about some aspect of chicken keeping that I’m unfamiliar with I reach out to the vast community of enthusiasts who are often only too willing to help. For this article I asked members of the Facebook group Huggable House Chickens And Ducks to give me the low down on diapers: What works and doesn’t? What brands they’d recommend? How to accommodate the needs of different sized breeds?
Here are some tips from the pros:
Most important features in a diaper
- Large poop pouch. These should be shaped like a bag or a pouch and not a pocket. The bag-like designs tend to let poop fall away from the bird keeping the bird hygienic and comfortable. I find ones that are pocket shaped tend to leave poop up against the vent which just isn’t hygienic or comfortable. Minimal crop and shoulder pressure. Any sort of fabric or strap that goes right over the crop or tightly on the shoulders can be distressing and uncomfortable for most chickens.
- Ease of cleaning: If its hard to clean its going to be hard to keep hygienic. Some cloth diapers with intricate designs can get very nasty, especially ones that don’t have liners or aren’t waterproof.
- Waterproof: This just means the poop pouch has a liner or some sort of material to prevent leakage.
- Adjustable: Young chickens grow and change and a chicken in molt vs in full lay may have slightly different body proportions, so adjustable diapers mean the chicken can always be most comfortable.
- Proper fit: Designs that don’t bother the crop and fit nicely.
- Minimal design that use the least amount of fabric, so the bird isn’t constricted at all, are the most comfortable. Diapers that have a lot of fabric on the bottom can make it easy for some chickens to get their feet caught and you don’t want that.
- Ease of use is very important. A decent percentage of house chicken owners are disabled, myself included. A diaper that has a lot of intricate straps, buckles, and buttons can be very difficult to use for people with hyper-mobility or joint pain. Diapers that are easy to put on and take off are less stressful for both human and bird.
- Appropriate Detergent: It’s important to use cloth diaper detergent which is made for cleaning human baby cloth diapers. They use an enzyme based detergent that works on poop to help prevent build-up of bacteria and odour.
- Must Haves: Sewn in water proof liner, open crop design, made of soft and light weight fabric.
- Less is more, no need for fabric up the belly which feet get caught in. Keep it simple: a leak proof pouch with comfy elastic.
Last words of advice …
- Diaper train early and be prepared for poop. My house chicken was a few months old when I brought her home and she very much resists the diaper.
- Don’t leave a diapered chicken home alone. Something as simple as a loose thread can become life threatening in a short time. We had one hen who I’m sure would have lost her tongue if we hadn’t been home to notice a long thread going from the diaper into her mouth and wrapped tightly around her tongue.
- Go diaper free at night, let them sleep in a small crate.
Where to get them
The last time I wrestled with my mum’s sewing machine, 40 years ago, I ran over my fingernail with the needle. Not surprisingly, I haven’t attempted to make anything since and luckily, with the advent of the internet and budding entrepreneurs, I don’t have to. A quick Google search will reveal that chicken diapers are a ‘thing’. There are all kinds of sites with DIY patterns for those of you who are proficient seamstresses or, if not, many online stores that sell a variety of chicken apparel: diapers, aprons, saddles, leashes, tutus and more.
I avoid Pamper Your Poultry because the sizing can be tricky and inconsistent, the diapers are not adjustable and the waterproof liner is a separate purchase. Chickens seem to dislike the pressure it puts on the crop and shoulders as well. They are durable though, I will give them that, but they are definitely a diaper for more experienced house chicken owners and chickens who are used to being diapered.
I like Luxury Chicken Diapers, but I haven’t seen their store in a while. The last diapers I bought were from Bev’s Bird Boutique for my pigeons which I found work very well for tiny Seramas. The drawback is they don’t have a large enough poop pouch.
Diapers By Sky and Fluffy Butt Chicken Diapers: I really like that they have an open crop design and a water proof sewn in liner, soft and light weight for the mechanical side of it, but there were options like lace and bows.
Fluffy Butt Chicken diapers by Jennifer Jackson and line them with press and seal for easy clean up.
Love Of A Chicken Diaper have the open crop design but are made out of fleece with the sewn in liner. They also have a feature I didn’t know I needed, but are adorable to the max: buttonholes that double duty to enable the fleece straps around the wing to be secure enough to attach a leash (birds can sometimes wiggle out of the elastic straps).
Many thanks for the following for their contributions and photos: Seleta Nothnagel, Saleana Haruff-Hatton, Carin Berry, Jessica Weprek DeAlmeida, Joy Rogers, Cathy Fausone and Pampered Poultry.