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In your words: Hold the chicken

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Dear Editor:

Having a neighbor who raises chickens in the backyard won’t raise your property’s value but it will raise your risk of Salmonella infection, according to a National Public Radio program in October 2016.

Salmonella is a bacterium that naturally lives in the intestines of a chicken. It does not harm them but is capable of causing severe gastrointestinal problems in humans characterized by severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea which can result in hospitalization and in rare cases even death.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 2016 saw the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded. 895 people from 48 states had gotten sick by October 2016 and of these 209 were hospitalized with one death. These germs are transmitted by chicken droppings which contaminate the feathers, beaks, feet and eggs of the chickens. The germs also can get on the cages, coops, feed and water dishes as well as the hay, plants, and soil where the birds live. In addition, people who handle or care for the birds can get the organisms on their hands, shoes and clothes with the possibility of contaminating homes as well.

Raising chickens in an urban area is a public health issue. That is established and is not the question. The question is whether the City Council believes that the wishes of a small minority of citizens who want  to raise chickens in their back yards outweighs the risk of Salmonella infection for the entire community. Chickens also attract raccoons, coyotes and foxes which bring their own set of problems and which most people would prefer not to have in their back yards.

The City Council appears to have the permitting process for urban chickens on somewhat of a “fast track” with a final vote on June 13. There appears to have been minimal public input or discussion. This is not the best approach for a controversial issue.

John M. Hattenhauer, Wausau

3 Comments

  1. Absolutely agree. Also, exactly what GOOD will this do for property value, or general neighborhood value in the city? Somehow, I don’t see chicken coops going up in the “better” sections/neighborhoods in this city. What a completely asinine idea. Then again, it’s Wausau…….not shocked.

  2. Statements made here are misleading and it seems salmonella is being used as a scare tactic to dissuade urban chickens in Wausau — despite the fact that several other cities in our state have allowed them without incident. The NPR radio program doesn’t state that property values won’t go up. Fact: New York, Chicago, Portland and Boulder all allow backyard chickens and have some of the highest property values in the country. Salmonella is, indeed, a serious bacterial infection but it isn’t just spread through chickens. It can be spread through reptiles, mammals & contaminated food. Some of the cases reported in Wisconsin in 2015 were related to factory frozen food (including tuna) and several cases reported in 2016 were the result of infected dairy bull calves. I can’t find confirmation of your statistics on the CDC website but what I did find was a case count of 37 people in the entire state of Wisconsin through Sept. 26, 2016 — and that includes exposure to all live poultry (which could include exposure at farms and other locations — not just in backyards). Also, the city is hardly “fast-tracking” the proposed ordinances. The issue was brought up several years ago and held back at that time. There was a public meeting earlier this month (of May) where anyone could have come to speak on the issue and it still has to go through the full committee where, again, members of the public have the opportunity to speak. The fact is, urban chickens are a growing movement and owning them has several benefits. (Austin, TX is actually paying their citizens a rebate for keeping urban chickens as they help reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills.) Wausau is showing forward thinking by revisiting the issue.

    • You want to talk facts, Nicole? FACT: Chicago and New York also have some of the highest murder rates in the nation. What does that have to do with chicken coops? Nothing. Just like your little rant about those places having some of the highest property values in the country. There is NO connection. Yeah, I’m sure the $1+ million dollar homes in those cities all have freaking chicken coops in the back yard(s), right?
      Lastly, please enlighten all of us as to how “urban chickens” (did you come up with that nifty term yourself?) reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills? Seriously??? Is it because the chicken do-do now just goes into city lawns?
      Can’t wait to hear your fact filled logic.

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