Connellsville resident in favor of raising poultry within city limits to address council Wednesday
While a number of people living in of Connellsville have expressed interest in keeping chickens, the Connellsville Board of Health is not in favor of an ordinance allowing residents to have the farm animals.
Geno Gallo, a Connellsville resident and an officer with Sustainable Connellsville, would like to see an ordinance drafted by city council that would allow chickens to be raised within the city limits.
“We are inviting some people to the next council meeting (July 17),” said Gallo. “It (might be) unfair to landlords. If you're renting, you would have to have permission from the landlord.
“What we're trying to do is to correct information.” Gallo said the idea is to build an ordinance that will allow responsible owners who might enjoy raising hens for pets or allow individuals to enjoy healthy, fresh eggs. He said the length of time from when the eggs are laid until they are used means a huge difference. Also, the shells on homegrown chicken eggs are thicker and will introduce those who gather the eggs “to the way eggs are supposed to taste.”
He said the best way may be a pilot program approach.
Gregory Martin, an educator in poultry with the Penn State Extension service statewide, said in many cases chickens are just like having other pets in the city.
“People having pets are healthier,” he said. “I have a dog and a cat, for example.”
Martin said the example set by Martha Stewart of having chickens has increased interest. He said he is a fan of Stewart, but added there is a responsibility that comes with keeping chickens, including taking proper precautions.
“The case here is to make sure you have proper cover and proper protection for the chickens,” Martin said. “Dogs and cats and other things in neighborhoods (hawks and owls, for example) can prey on them.”
The secret, according to Martin, is to use chicken wire to cover the enclosure where the chickens are kept. The wire should be buried below ground level around the edges.
Martin said that keeping chickens does require time for care. He said the poultry should be checked at least twice a day, with half-an-hour used for care. Their area should be checked for wet spots and their water source should always be clean and fresh.
Martin said most of the small flocks he sees have a yard under chicken wire.
There are diseases that can infect humans and chickens, but Martin said these are most common in other pets as well. Some of the problems with the diseases, such as salmonella, can be prevented or reduced by proper precautions and techniques.
Chickens should be purchased from sources with the NPIC seal, certified free from the disease.
Common sanitation practices will reduce any chance for cross-infection as well. Always washing hands with soap and water after handling the birds and eggs and proper cooking of poultry and eggs will also reduce problems. People considering keeping chickens as a low-cost method for having eggs should think again. He said keeping a small flock for egg production is not cost-effective.
Martin recommended the Penn State Extension website (http://extension.psu.edu/animals/poultry/topics) as a source of information.
Krista Martin of the Uniontown Poultry and Farm Association said no two municipalities who have ordinances to allow chickens have the same regulations.
“Some places just have a permit,” she said. “However, you have to fill out this form. Some towns have someone come out to check.”
Krista Martin, who lives in Washington County, said she has her own chicken coop. It has an enclosure and a henhouse that is about the size of a doghouse. She added that hens do not need a lot of space to roam. They are perfectly happy living in a confined space.
“There are less diseases than between cats and people and dogs and people,” she said, adding the main concern, salmonella, is a bacteria found everywhere that is a fragile organism. The proper washing and cooking of poultry products eliminates the disease.
Tom Currey, Connellsville health officer, does not think raising a flock of chickens in the city is an ideal situation. He said a few birds as pets might be OK, but even a small flock for eggs or meat production presents problems.
Currey said the birds only lay eggs for about three years of their 10-year lifespan. Having roosters is not an ideal situation in an urban area, either. Trying to raise birds for meat production is also not practical, he said.
He added it is his understanding that about one hour per day per bird would be necessary for the proper care of the animals.
Marilyn Weaver, council representative to the health board, said she is not in favor of an ordinance allowing chickens. She said such an ordinance would place more of a burden on the health board and on Currey.
“We have enough problems in taking care and maintaining properties,” she said. “We do not have time to be concerned with chickens.”
Dr. Dale Cadwallader, a Connellsville dentist and president of the health board, also said he is not in favor of an ordinance allowing chickens to be kept in the city.
He agreed with Weaver that the city has plenty of problems, including feral cats, without adding the increased problems associated with a chicken ordinance.
“What if people (who could not properly raise chickens) just opened the gate and let them go,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control also offers information on its website (www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellapoultry/) on diseases found in poultry.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3538.