By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — After more than an hour of debate on both sides of the issue, city leaders approved backyard chicken farming in Wausau by a 6-5 margin.
Pat Peckham, Romey Wagner, Dave Nutting, Tom Neal, Lisa Rasmussen and Joe Gehin voted in favor of the proposal. Gary Gisselman, Becky McElhaney, Karen Kellbach, Sherry Abitz and Dennis Smith were opposed.
The new rule means homeowners are allowed up to four hens in homes zoned as single family residences or two-family residence districts. Permits, which cost $35, will be granted only to homeowners and will be valid for one year.
The proposal left residents sharply divided, many of whom were worried about the possibility of Salmonella infection.
But Jeff Hinueber, a retired veterinarian who lives in Wausau, said poultry owners can take certain precautions that can greatly reduce the chance of infection.
Chickens should never be allowed indoors and should not be cuddled or kissed, Hinueber said. The number one way to prevent disease, he said, is to wash hands thoroughly after having contact with chickens.
Under the new rules, chicken coops are required to be placed in the back yard area of a home at least 10 feet from the property line and at least 25 feet from the home itself. Between sunrise and sunset, chickens can to roam in a run that provides at least three feet of space per chicken up to a maximum of 24 feet.
Sales of eggs are prohibited, and owners are not be permitted to slaughter chickens on the premises. The city’s humane officer will inspect homes before permits are issued.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also published a set of recommendations for handling of backyard chickens.