New jackets for Hens Solo and Princess Layer

Hens Solo and Princess Layer model the new jackets
Image caption Hens Solo and Princess Layer model the new jackets

Entrepreneurs in Banbury have found a global market for a new product - jackets for chickens.

Designers at Omlet told Radio 4's You and Yours they had orders from across the world, having come up with the idea following recent cold winters.

A lining developed by Nasa called Flectalon helps reflect heat back into the chicken's body, while fluorescent colouring helps keeps the birds safe on dark nights.

The firm also markets a tweed version.

The company, which originally developed chicken coops, said they were increasingly talking to customers who were attempting to heat their hen houses with hot water bottles to protect birds against the cold.

Johannes Paul of Omlet said: "A lot of our customers have them in their back garden and look after them like any pet and the last couple of winters have been really chilly.

Image caption The firm has received orders from Japan and the US

"They phoned us saying they looked cold and could we make a coat."

He defends the firm against accusations that as hardy farm animals, chickens do not need any more protection.

At their base, two chickens, Hens Solo and Princess Layer, appeared unconcerned by their new togs.

He said: "It's all about cosiness. Technically they may be fine, but it doesn't have to be survival of the fittest.

"Keeping chickens warm is part of good animal welfare."

The firm worked on six prototypes before settling on a design which had no effect on normal activities such as dust bathing.

Omlet's Lorna Gemmell said: "The shoulder must be exposed, because if that is covered, then that will affect their balance.

Image caption The jackets are also marketed as a safety feature

"You also need to make sure it sits high enough, so they don't get their feet stuck in it when they walk."

One million UK households keep pet chickens, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.

One customer, Sandalee Ali-Sehbai, 12, said since they started wearing the jackets, her hens had explored the garden more.

She said: "We were looking for things to keep the chickens warm and we saw these jackets. At first, we found it funny, but they really like them.

"They spent a few minutes trying to walk in them. At one point, they were walking backwards, but then they worked it out."

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