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