Friday, March 9, 2018

A very timely reminder: Health risks and concerns related to raising chickens in urban environments.


This blog post today is a follow-up on the question posed, “What is your position on the urban chicken?” Back in 2009 District 1 Commissioner Scott Maxwell was the first to take on the fight against the so-called Urban Chickenand he ultimately prevailed. Most of the ‘urban chickensupporters then “flew the coopwith their flock out west somewhere in unincorporated Palm Beach County with their flock and created even bigger problems out there: attracting packs of coyotes and vicious feral cats.

Election Day is next Tuesday, March 13th. Although many of my blog readers are all-too-familiar with the history of the ‘Urban Chicken’ we all have to be reminded from time to time there are many new and recently-new residents who know little or nothing about this political fight that once raged in this City.

Yes. The story about the ‘Urban Chicken’ is funny. And yes, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek too. But what’s not so funny is thinking about all the people — including infants, young children and the elderly — who got sick and ended up in the emergency room.
Seven outbreaks of salmonella linked to live poultry in backyard flocks have caused 324 cases of illness in 35 states since January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Sixty-six of the ill individuals have been hospitalized. . . . “Results from these investigations showed that contact with live poultry in backyard flocks was the likely source of these outbreaks,” the agency said.

So. Without further ado. . .

Raising chickens, aka ‘Urban Chickens’ IS NOT LEGAL in the City of Lake Worth despite what you may have heard. However, like the mythical “red herring” about Lake Worth being a ‘sanctuary city’, the myth about it being legal to raise chickens within the City limits is still believed and even promoted by some in the community.

Besides the many health problems created by raising chickens in an urban environment is attracting predators. Last year there were news reports of coyotes as close by as Greenacres killing cats and other small small animals as well. What other animals do coyotes especially like to hunt? You guessed right: chickens (see “Attraction of predators” below).

Some people argue that raising chickens in the backyard makes economic sense. To save a few pennies on eggs? Have you seen the price of eggs lately at Publix?

The ‘urban chicken’ is not merely a nuisance.

The animals present very serious health concerns for young children and the elderly, issues with food safety, infectious diseases, biosecurity, not to mention the added burden on local Code Enforcement to answer complaints and having to take the time and educate the public about the facts.

The following information comes from a well-researched document about human health concerns associated with raising chickens in an urban environment:
  • Bacterial diseases: Salmonella and Campylobacter are common public health hazards potentially associated with chicken contact.
  • Histoplasmosis: Histoplasmosis can cause a respiratory disease with cough and shortness of breath.
  • Avian influenza (bird flu): Avian influenza is a theoretical public health hazard potentially associated with urban chicken farming.
  • Attraction of predators: The attraction of predators is a public health hazard potentially associated with urban chicken farming (e.g., coyotes)
  • Attraction of rodents: The attraction of rodents is a public health hazard potentially associated with urban chicken farming.
  • Nuisance issues
Management and handling of poultry in small backyard flocks:
  • Keep baby chicks and adult poultry away from persons with weaker immune systems, including the elderly, pregnant women, diabetics, patients receiving chemotherapy and people infected with HIV.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that person not keep chickens if the household has children less than five years of age.
  • Make sure that people who handle the chickens or their droppings, wash hands properly with soap and water following contact.
  • Do not eat or drink around the poultry.
  • Keep poultry away from food preparation areas.
  • Do not wash items, such as water or food dishes, from chicken coops in the kitchen sink.
  • Do not allow poultry to roam in the house.
  • Maintain the area where the poultry are present in a sanitary manner.
  • See your physician if you experience fever and diarrhea.
Conclusion
Communities that permit urban chicken farming are advised to ensure that flock owners receive educational materials on infectious diseases, animal husbandry, food safety and biosecurity. These communities also should have a system in place for responding to community complaints.


Are those few pennies saved raising chickens for eggs worth exposing your neighbors to avoidable health risks and safety issues?

This image is from the blog of Tom McGow, a former blogger-extraordinaire here in this City.
It was Mr. McGow who chronicled Cara Jennings’ 2009 crusade promoting the ‘urban chicken’. Note that it was during this time the City’s Code Enforcement Dept. was being gutted as well. Ergo why home values plummeted so deeply in this City 8–10 years ago.