Crazy K Farm
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Stephanie Bouchard
The mating habits of hens and roosters aren’t within the purview of most geologists, but that didn’t stop Houston-area geologist Tobi Kosanke from getting into the chicken sex apparel business.
Kosanke and her family had just purchased a farm in Hempstead, Texas, about 45 miles northwest of Houston, and found herself the caretaker not only of a new home but all the farm animals the former owners didn’t take with them — including 100 chickens.
“I didn’t know anything about chickens — and my chickens were going bald,” she recalls. One chicken was particularly in a bad way, with gashes down its side. She thought maybe a hawk had attacked the hen, but when she brought the chicken to a local veterinarian, the vet said the damage was more likely done by a mating rooster. The vet suggested she get a chicken saddle, which she did, but what she bought was ineffective.
Wanting to protect the backs of the hens from the overzealous attention of roosters, she set to work and created an apron that straps onto their backs. Her chicken saddles work as a defense against feather loss and cuts and gashes that can become infected. They worked so well that she began selling them, and thus was born a new business, which, after 10 years, has grown into Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products.
As a geologist, Kosanke, now 55, never had any plans to design chicken apparel. In school, she really wasn’t sure what she’d do with her doctorate in geology. She thought teaching might be a possibility, but then fate intervened when she was approached by two recruiters from ExxonMobil after they heard her give a presentation at a conference.
Before she knew it, this East Coast native was moving with her now-husband, Stefan, and a number of rescue cats, to Houston for a job in the oil and gas industry, examining sedimentary rocks to, among other things, assess petroleum reserves.
She had rescued cats all through her undergraduate and graduate student years — actually, she’d been rescuing animals since she was a little girl. It drove her parents crazy that she kept bringing animals home. “They said to me, and this is the refrain over and over and over again, ‘When you grow up, you can have as many animals as you want.’ And now I do. It’s like nah na na nah na nah.”
As she and her husband accumulated more and more rescue animals, they realized they needed a property that could accommodate their growing human and pet family. That’s when they found the farm in Hempstead and their one baby daughter, two parrots, four (at least) cats, and two-dog family expanded overnight to include horses, donkeys, two barn cats, and 100 chickens.
She may have known nothing about chickens, but it turns out her training as a scientist was an ideal background to have for creating chicken apparel. “You get a Ph.D. in science — you’re a researcher. That’s what I was,” she said. “I absolutely knew what I was doing research-wise and the steps we had to take to manufacture different items.”
She had a problem to be solved, the time to observe and do the research and development to make something safe and effective. Whenever one of her chickens had some problem — bumblefoot or a pendulous crop, for example — she checked out was available, wasn’t satisfied, and did the research and development on her own creations to come up with new products to address the problem, such as a bootie to protect chickens with foot injuries or bumblefoot, and a crop bra.
From poultry apparel, she expanded into walking harnesses for cats and dogs and diapers for indoor, free-range ducks and geese (and chickens) and got nonprofit standing for the farm as she and her family brought in more and more rescues.
Today, the 35-acre farm is home to more than 100 chickens, four elderly parrots, 10 cats, nine dogs, and a number of goats — all of them with special needs. The farm relies on one full-time employee and a number of volunteers for operations and care of the animals.
The money made from the products Kosanke created and patented goes to support the animals on the farm. She doesn’t earn money from the business she created (she mostly serves in an advisory role these days). “I didn’t want a business to make money (for herself),” she said. She already had a good income from her work in the oil and gas industry. The business, she said, grew out of the need to create a social venture that would support rescue animals, and, more importantly, give them “the best life possible.”
Originally published in the February/March 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.