This opinion piece was written and submitted by Rock Springs resident Madhu Anderson.
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According to Rock Springs city’s current ordinance, chickens are not permitted within the city limits. I noticed the chicken issue discussed in the 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, respected Mayor Kaumo and the city council members will make the right decision for the benefit of the community and will not allow backyard chickens in the city.
Unfortunately, a few people still keep chickens against the city ordinance. It’s a typical example of irresponsible pet ownership as they put their animals at risk of being removed by the city or ordered to be moved somewhere else.
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-intended, uninformed attitude results in flies, filthy chicken coops, decaying leftover food scraps, dirty water, offensive odor from built-up chicken excrement, sick, neglected, dying, or abandoned birds. In addition, spilled bird feed, grains, seeds, bedding of straw, or wood chips for nesting in the yard attract mice and rats that can quickly spread throughout the neighborhood.
Most of the time, vulnerable chickens can lure more foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks into the area. It also increases the risk of transmittable diseases like Salmonella. According to the CDC (Center Disease Control), Salmonella can cause severe illnesses in humans. As the avian flu is rapidly spreading all over the US, infecting commercial and backyard flocks, bringing chickens into Rock Springs city could be harmful to the community.
Besides public health and public nuisance, backyard chickens will also affect the city’s animal control services. Rock Springs Animal Control has a tight budget with limited staff and is working very hard to find good homes for already abandoned and abused shelter dogs and cats. It’s a tedious job in itself. They are overburdened 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 work tasks. I wonder if our taxes will be raised to keep up with the additional workload on animal law enforcement.
Another crucial key issue of adding chickens to the city is increasing the risk of animal abuse. Chickens are highly social, cheerful, intelligent, and naturally curious animals. They preen and dustbathe to clean their bodies; they are clearly neglected if they look dirty and ridden with mites, flies, and worms. In addition to safe predator-proof housing, nutritional food, and clean water, chickens also require good veterinary care. Chickens can get sick with treatable respiratory illness, bacterial, viral, or fungal diseases, 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 low. Basic vet care can be more expensive than the monetary value of the bird. As a result, most birds remain untreated and suffer from diseases. Unfortunately, we don’t have an avian vet who is an expert in bird healthcare in Rock Springs or Green River. I was told by a couple of local vets in both these cities that they rarely have people bringing their backyard chickens for any vet care. These untreated birds in crowded city spaces are more likely to spread diseases among themselves and humans. Anyone who is not willing to provide their chickens veterinary care should not have them.
Another form of animal cruelty occurs when these day-old chicks are shipped in small boxes through postal services from commercial hatcheries all over the country. These newborn chicks are deprived of food and water, often over long periods. As a result, many die due to dehydration or extreme temperatures during transport. In addition, many people receive roosters in their shipments due to sexing errors at the hatcheries; these unwanted roosters face abandonment, abuse, or slaughter by the buyers. This shipment process of day-old chicks is not only cruel to birds but also contradicts the idea that backyard chicken raising is a humane alternative to industrial animal farming.
We can’t compare dogs’ and cats’ welfare with chickens because chickens are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act and Humane Slaughter Act, but dogs and cats are. Hence, most violent abuses against backyard chickens go unreported. The main reason why Green River Animal Control hardly receives any calls about animal abuse related to backyard chickens.
Rock Springs residents should call the respected Mayor and the city council members and politely ask them to reject the proposal to permit chickens within Rock Springs city limits as they did in 2013.