The Revere Board of Health held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, February 24, in the City Council Chambers.
In attendance at the meeting were the chairperson, Dr. Drew Bunker, and fellow member Dr. Craig Costanza, as well as Director of Public Health Lauren Buck; Michael Wells, the city’s Health Agent/Director of Inspectional Services; and Administrative Assistant Paula Sepulveda.
The principal business taken up by the board was a review and discussion of the proposed regulations for the keeping of chickens by local residents.
The board must establish the regulations in order to implement the action taken by the City Council last year that adopted the Urban Farming Ordinance that allows local residents to raise bees and chickens. The Board of Health adopted regulations for the keeping of bees late last year and now is in the process of adopting regulations for the keeping of chickens.
A special guest at the meeting was Khrysti Smyth Barry, the founder of Yardbirds Backyard Chickens, who was invited by Buck to provide expert advice to the board on various aspects and details of the proposed regulations.
Buck presented the proposed regulations to the board, reading the key portions of the eight pages of regulations.
Buck explained that the local regulations must comply with all local, state, and federal laws.
Among the highlights of the proposed regulations noted by Buck were:
— The chickens must not constitute a nuisance to neighbors. Roosters and crowing hens are not permitted. The total number of chickens is limited to six. The Board of Health (BoA) may order chickens removed if they are deemed to be a health nuisance.
— There are requirements for the construction of chicken coops that must comply with state and municipal building codes. In addition, there must be a minimum and maximum size for both the coop and a minimum ground surface area for an enclosed chicken run outside of the coop. Chicken coops cannot be located in a front yard and must adhere to the same setback requirements as any other building (five feet on the side and two feet in the rear from abutters). The coop also must be sufficiently distanced from high water marks and sources of drinking water. In addition, they must be completely enclosed and constructed so as to keep out pests and predators.
— All noise ordinances must be observed.
— Chicken-keeping must be done in a humane manner.
— Keepers must discard bedding and waste material in compliance with regulations. “There is a composting element of the bedding and waste products,” said Buck. “We want to encourage composting, but make sure it’s done responsibly.”
— No odors can be perceptible at the property lines.
— All chickens must be confined to the license holder’s property at all times. Hens may not be kept inside a home, except in certain emergency situations.
— Chicken feed must be kept in a pest-proof container or inside a pest-proof run.
— Chickens may not be butchered in front of neighbors and the meat may not be sold.
— Deceased chickens must be wrapped properly if they are to be thrown out with the regular waste. If they are buried in a yard, they must be buried at least two feet deep and 1000 feet away from a water source and covered by a heavy object so as not to be dug up by animals.
— A license is required to keep chickens at a cost of $50 initially and then $25 annually. The BoH must hold a public hearing before issuing a license. Abutters must be notified in writing of a license application and have the right to voice their objections. Renters must have the consent of their landlord. Applicants are required to present a scaled drawing of the property, a detailed waste-management plan, a sick chicken plan, and an emergency evacuation plan.
— The BoH can make inspections and order that chickens be removed if there is a public health issue.
Barry offered a number of suggestions for the BoH to fine-tune the regulations pertaining to: the composting containers to be required for the composting of the bedding and waste; the wording about the requirement that the chickens must be kept on the property at all times inside an enclosure; and the storing of feed, among others.
Barry also noted that avian influenza is on the increase at the present time and suggested that the BoH must be notified by an owner only in the event of the death of multiple birds — the original recommendation was for an owner to notify the BoH in the event of one chicken death — which might indicate the presence of a disease.
The BoH members agreed with the various recommendations made by Buck and Barry and will vote whether to approve the revised regulations at the board’s next meeting in March.
Prior to the discussion about the chicken-keeping regulations, Buck presented the monthly communicable disease report, which is separate from the COVID-19 report. She noted that there were only six cases that were reported in the city this past month.
She read a statement from the CDC which highlights the disparity of HIV in the Black community compared to the rest of the country’s population. Blacks constitute 13% of the U.S. population, but 40% of HIV cases are among the Black community.
Buck also discussed wastewater tracking of the COVID-19 disease. “This will be the wave of public health tracing in the future,” she said.
Buck presented the city’s up-to-date COVID statistics: As of February 23, there have been 21,712 total cases and 197 deaths in Revere since the start of the pandemic, which is at its two-year anniversary. The seven-day case average presently is 7.3 and the 14-day positivity rate is 6.9%, both of which Buck said are huge downtrends.
Buck broke down the COVID-19 vaccination status among Revere residents by age cohort as follows: For 5-12 year olds, it’s 29%; for 12-15, 79%; for 16-19, 78%; for 20-29, 84%; for 30-49, 88%; for 50-64, 81%; for 65-75, 84%; and for over-75, 69%.
“All of these numbers are increasing,” Buck added. “We’re continuing to watch our booster numbers and we will have regular vaccination clinics through March for first, second, and booster doses.”