Raising chickens in Connellsville still an issue

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 7:15 a.m.

Some city residents aren't giving up on their hopes of one day being able to raise chickens in their Connellsville backyards.

Although the group, led by Geno Gallo, president of the Sustainable Connellsville organization, addressed council and the city's health board twice before with no success, they again approached council.

This time they invited an associate who is knowledgeable on the subject of chickens.

Krista Martin, secretary of the Uniontown Poultry Association, is a certified poultry technician who is able to test poultry for different diseases.

She told council members this week that while noise issues, cleanliness and health and wellness issues all seem to be concerns of the health board and council, these are all concerns from the unknown.

“We host classes on the basics of backyard poultry that includes everything from how to choose a breed that's not noisy, how to manage manure so it's not a stinky mess and how to build a coop so that there's enough room for the chickens but it's not a huge monstrosity,” Martin said. “I think when you're dealing with something new or scary, rationality tends to go out the window.”

The spread of disease appeared to be one of the major concerns.

Martin said there are about eight diseases that chickens can carry, but that is relatively low compared with the 18 diseases dogs can carry and the 24 diseases that cats can carry.

“If you maintain the health of the birds, then you don't have these types of issues,” she said.

If the city would allow a pilot program with a handful of residents given permits, Martin said the UPA would provide free classes to the group and design the curriculum to meet any guidelines set by council.

Gallo said the group is asking that city council allow them to start a pilot program.

“We don't want to put any extra work on the code officer, but I think this is going to be a big deal,” he said. “I think much more is being made of it than should be. Certainly we look at it as a privilege and if it's done responsibly, it's something we should have the right to do.”

Councilwoman Marilyn Weaver, also a representative to the health board, maintained her stance against allowing chickens in the city.

Despite her adamant opinion against chickens in the city, Weaver did suggest the group draw up their own ordinance dealing with raising chickens in the city and present it to health and code officer Tom Currey, who would then present it to the city's solicitor for review and approval or disapproval.

“If the solicitor doesn't approve it, then that's the end of it,” she said. “It could be that my fellow council members and the mayor disagree with me and overrule me and that would be all right, but my vote is ‘no' to raising chickens, which are farm animals, in the city. They belong on a farm.”

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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