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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Have you ever seen plastic owls in gardens, on boat docks or even around balconies? If you wonder what they're for or who had the idea to make them, it's a company in Knoxville.
Tennessee native Neal Caldwell took his love of gardening and turned it into big business with Dalen Products.
Made in Tennessee was given complete access to Dalen's manufacturing floor, where we watched small, clear plastic like pellets get melted down with brown coloring, dropped into a mold, then filled with air to create a hollowed-out, big horned owl.
As we looked on, owner and founder Neal Caldwell explained, "We were the first to bring natural enemy pest repellers, and we have been much copied since then."
It was Caldwell's love of gardening and innovative nature that led him to become his own boss, and start making gardening supplies in the mid 1970s.
A few years later, a friend told him how a garden hose that looked like a snake could be used to scare away birds from a fruit tree.
Caldwell took that idea one step further. "If birds are afraid of a garden hose, then if I made an inflatable that looked really looked like a snake, that would be even better."
In the early 1980s, Dalen Products went to market with an inflatable snake, and then an inflatable owl.
By 1984, the inflatable owl was replaced by the molded great horned owl, what many call the company's signature product. "Owls are one of the fiercest birds there is. They are feared by almost everything," Caldwell said.
Perched up high, Dalen's great horned owl acts as a chemical-free pest control for gardens, boat docks, just about anywhere.
Caldwell says he's heard great success stories. "I had one guy on the lake who was having trouble with Canadian geese. Last time I checked he had not had a goose in his yard in three years, but he moves it every day when he gets the newspaper."
Moving your owl every few days, according to Caldwell, will almost guarantee success.
Dalen now offers more than 150 products. The company's stationary owl is still made at its West Knoxville plant, and we're told there are no plans to change that anytime soon.
"I have lived in East Tennessee my whole life," Caldwell said. "There's a good work ethic here, good employees. Why would I want to go anywhere else?"
You can buy the great horned owl and other Dalen products at Walmart, Costco, hardware stores and various online sites.
We should also point out that Dalen makes a solar rotating owl, but it's not produced at the Tennessee plant.