By Mr. Hattenhauer’s postulations, ALL animals should be eliminated from the city limits (really, we’re going to try to police what flies land on?).
Cats shed diseases of prey that they consume for up to 2 weeks after they ingest it. The free-roaming cats combined with the deer, starlings, crows, and other avian scavengers, and un-picked-up-after dogs in the city limits pose far greater risk of disease transmission.
In terms of audible volume, hens and pullets are far fewer average decibels than a crying child, barking dog, cats fighting at 3 a.m. outside my window, or the couple down the street’s occasional shouting matches (all could be deemed “annoying noises” by some).
Yes, droppings smell. As with being responsible for any other animal, proper waste management shouldn’t have to be specifically mentioned, it should come as a matter of course. However, this proposal could, if passed, engender the creation of many first-time chicken owners. As with getting a puppy for the first time, there is a learning curve.
Hopefully, everyone who undertakes a new animal responsibility does their research before they commit and as a result, can handle the waste in a biosecure and efficient way. Bugs are part of the eco-system? This statement is true. Can I assume, then, that Mr. Hattenhauer doesn’t use insecticide of any type on his lawn or his body?
That all being opinionated on, here are what I believe to be some good reasons for allowing chickens in the Wausau city limits:
Chickens are companionable, social, pleasant, relaxing animals to interact with for those who enjoy them and can invest the time (this is basically the reason any of us ever have pets).
Chickens make good pets. In addition to being good pets, they have potential to contribute to the household where they live in the form of occasional, even daily, eggs. They might even do this for multiple years before they become non-producing and return to being just pets.
In a world of ever-growing population and changing climate, shortening the distance between food production and consumer is crucial. Rarely do we encounter such a situation as chickens present: 2-4 birds make a tiny planetary footprint, yet produce a nutrient- and protein-rich superfood that one must simply collect daily (apart from the basic pre-requisites of owning a pet: food, water, shelter, waste management, and social).
It is an opportunity for youth and adults alike to be directly involved in their household’s food production and strengthens empathy, respect, and connection with the farmers that produce the majority of our food.
This conversation, especially for children growing up in the city, is immeasurably valuable and the hands-on augmentation of having backyard chickens reinforces this in a fun and positive way.
Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and composts quickly. Chicken compost is a valuable re-nourisher for the soil and assists in rebuilding and storing carbon.
Chickens are excellent at mosquito and tick reduction (although, in the city, this effect will be limited). While bugs are, indeed, part of the eco-system, most of us wouldn’t argue against having a few less mosquitos in our backyards. Chickens do, as Mr. Hattenhauer’s letter states, eat table scraps. It’s a nice way to reduce waste. However, generally we do not just throw them all over our backyard like some kind of vermin buffet. Usually there is a dish out of which the chickens eat, within their fenced-in run, into which appropriate table scraps would be placed. At the very least, they would be within the chicken enclosure.
There is really no reason for a city that allows pets to NOT allow chickens. It’s a strange, arbitrary delineation that I believe is born of ignorance and good intentions. There will be issues. There will always be issues. There will be people who are wholly unprepared for chickens yet commit anyway. There will be people who are well prepared for chickens and then have a medical or family event that negatively impacts or eliminates their ability to care for them. All of these things may be said of pets that are already allowed in Wausau, some of which require much higher levels of care than chickens.
Conclusion: Wausau should catch up with the times, and informed by the experience of other forward-thinking, progressive urban areas who have successfully allowed backyard chickens for many years, allow backyard chickens.
Sincerely, Valerie Charneski Aldermanic District 1, Wausau
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