This opinion piece was written and submitted by Rock Springs resident Madhu Anderson.
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According to the current ordinance of the City of Rock Springs, chickens are not permitted within the city limits. I noticed the chicken issue being discussed at recent Rock Springs City Council meetings. I found out that the same ordinance was discussed in 2013, and the city rejected the proposal to change the ordinance. Hopefully the respected Mayor Kaumo and members of the City Council will make the right decision for the benefit of the community and not allow backyard chickens in the city.
Unfortunately, a few people still keep chickens against the city ordinance. This is a typical example of irresponsible pet ownership, as they put their pets at risk of being kicked out of town or being moved elsewhere.
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Most people who live in the city know little about chicken care. Most of them get chickens as a hobby expecting cheap eggs and meat with very little or no work. This well-meaning and misinformed attitude results in flies, dirty chicken coops, rotting food scraps, dirty water, a foul odor from accumulated chicken droppings, sick, neglected, dying or abandoned birds. Additionally, spilled bird food, grain, seeds, straw bedding, or wood shavings for nesting in the yard attract mice and rats which can spread quickly through the neighborhood.
Most of the time, vulnerable chickens can attract more foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks to the area. It also increases the risk of communicable diseases like salmonella. According to the CDC (Center Disease Control), Salmonella can cause serious illness in humans. As bird flu spreads rapidly across the United States, infecting commercial and backyard flocks, bringing chickens into the town of Rock Springs could be harmful to the community.
Besides public health and public nuisance, backyard chickens will also affect the city’s animal control departments. Rock Springs Animal Control is on a tight budget with a limited staff and works very hard to find good homes for already abandoned and abused dogs and cats. This is tedious work in itself. They’re overloaded with stray animals, noise, and other animal-related calls; adding chickens will increase the number of these calls. In addition, enforcing chicken-related licensing laws and regulations will add to their duties. I wonder if our taxes will be increased to deal with the extra workload of enforcing animal laws.
Another crucial key issue of adding chickens to the town is increasing the risk of animal abuse. Chickens are very social, cheerful, intelligent and naturally curious animals. They preen and wash the dust to cleanse their body; they are clearly neglected if they look dirty and infested with mites, flies and worms. In addition to safe, predator-proof housing, nutritious feed and clean water, chickens also need good veterinary care. Chickens can become ill with treatable respiratory illnesses, bacterial, viral or fungal illnesses, or develop parasites without proper medication.
Unfortunately, some people keep their chickens in harmful unsanitary conditions with very little or no veterinary care to keep the expense down. Basic veterinary care can be more expensive than the monetary value of the bird. As a result, most birds go untreated and suffer from disease. Unfortunately, we do not have an avian veterinarian with expertise in bird health care in Rock Springs or Green River. A few local veterinarians in these two towns told me that they rarely had people bring in their backyard chickens for veterinary care. These untreated birds in crowded urban spaces are more likely to spread disease between themselves and humans. Anyone who is unwilling to provide veterinary care to their chickens should not have it.
Another form of animal cruelty occurs when these day-old chicks are shipped in small boxes through the postal services from commercial hatcheries across the country. These newborn chicks are deprived of food and water, often for long periods of time. As a result, many die from dehydration or extreme temperatures during transport. Additionally, many people receive roosters in their shipments due to sex errors at hatcheries; these unwanted roosters are abandoned, abused or put down by buyers. This process of shipping day-old chicks is not only cruel to the birds, but also contradicts the idea that backyard chicken farming is a humane alternative to factory farming.
We cannot compare the welfare of dogs and cats to that of chickens, because chickens are not protected by the Federal Animal Protection Act and the Humane Slaughter Act, but dogs and cats are. Therefore, most violent abuse of backyard chickens goes unreported. The main reason why Green River Animal Control receives almost no calls regarding animal abuse related to backyard chickens.
Rock Springs residents should call the respected mayor and city council members and politely ask them to reject the proposal to allow chickens within Rock Springs city limits as they did in 2013.