UPC Letter to Stuart, Florida Officials Re a Proposal to Allow Chicken-Keeping
City of Stuart, Florida residents opposed to an ordinance amendment that will allow people to keep chickens (hens only, no roosters) on a residential property, community garden, or urban farm asked United Poultry Concerns to write to the Mayor, City Commissioners, City Manager, City Development Director, and City Attorney, urging them to reject the amendment, citing potential animal cruelty violations as a primary concern and the inappropriateness of keeping chickens in an urban environment. Below is the letter submitted by UPC President Karen Davis to Stuart city officials.
Proposed Ordinance Amendment:
CITY OF STUART, FLORIDA ORDINANCE NUMBER 2347-2017
|City of Stuart Officials|
|Mayor Thomas F. Campennifirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Vice-Mayor Troy A. McDonaldemail@example.com|
|Commissioner Kelli Glass Leightonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Commissioner Jeffrey A. Krauskopfemail@example.com|
|Commissioner Eula R. Clarkefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|City Manager Paul J. Nicolettiemail@example.com|
|City Attorney Michael J. Mortellfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|City Development Directoremail@example.com|
|City of Stuart Commission||website|
Stuart News Reporter
May 11, 2017
Dear City of Stuart, Florida Officials:
I am writing to you respectfully regarding an ordinance amendment you are currently considering to allow your residents to keep chickens (hens, not roosters).
Having kept chickens for more than 30 years, since 1983, I am acquainted with chickens and their needs. In addition, I’m familiar with the backyard chicken-keeping trend that has developed over the past decade. It is with this background that I’m mentioning for your consideration some of the issues and concerns relating to urban chicken-keeping. (I do see that you have addressed many of these matters in the proposed amendment.)
As with all animal sanctuaries around the country, our organization receives constant requests from people who thought it would be easy to keep a few hens for eggs, only to discover that responsible chicken care takes time, money and daily labor to ensure clean housing, fresh food, water, and bedding. Keeping chickens responsibly requires a commitment that many people, who had thought having a personal chicken coop was romantic, are not prepared for. The result is filthy chicken coops, rats, mice, moldy food, putrid water bowls, and sick, dying and neglected chickens. Unfortunately, this is not rare, but common.
In our experience, most people purchase their chicks or hens from factory-farm hatcheries that ship the birds without food or water via airmail, often over long distances for long periods of time. Not only is this cruel and debilitating for the birds; it refutes the idea that residential chicken-keeping is a local practice or a true alternative to industrial farming.
Many hatcheries include baby roosters in their shipping containers, either as a result of a sexing error or deliberately. Hatcheries will often send male chicks on purpose as “packers.” When the buyer discovers that some of the hens are actually roosters, the roosters suffer neglect, abandonment and other abuses through no fault of their own.
While chickens themselves do not attract rodents, their feed grains and seeds as well as straw bedding and shavings definitely do. Rodents are generally viewed as pests and their presence is unwanted. But if they get into the chicken coop, they must be dealt with, and likewise flies. Chicken droppings attract flies and for this reason alone, the droppings must be removed every day.
I want to emphasize that chickens do not choose to be dirty and that if they are dirty and ridden with fleas, mites, worms and causing bad odors, it’s because they are being improperly cared for. If chickens develop parasites without proper medications, they can become sick with bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Veterinary care for chickens is crucial. It can also be expensive. However, anyone who is not willing to provide good veterinary care for their birds should not keep them. Chickens like any companion or domestic animals are totally dependent on the people who own them, and like any other companion or domestic animals, they can get sick with respiratory and other treatable infections. It is inhumane and irresponsible to deprive a dependent animal of any species proper veterinary care and treatment.
Predator proof-housing is also crucial, especially at night. Once a predator such as a hawk, owl, fox, possum, raccoon or weasel has access to the chickens, the predator will injure or kill them.
Finally, I would like to stress that chickens are intelligent and sensitive birds. Contrary to a lot of misunderstanding, chickens are neither dirty nor dumb. They preen and dustbathe to keep clean and they love and need natural sunlight for sunbathing. Chickens are active. They are also social creatures who can become very attached to their caregivers as well as to their flock mates.
I respectfully urge you to consider carefully whether an ordinance that permits keeping chickens is in the best interest of your city. Municipal animal shelters run on tight budgets and must deal daily with animal cruelty cases, dangerous or abandoned dog calls and the normal daily operation of their facilities. Adding the extra burden of enforcing chicken licensing laws and related complaints, could create unexpected problems.
I appreciate your taking the time to read my letter and I will be happy to provide further assistance on request. Thank you for your attention.
Karen Davis, PhD