CHATHAM, NJ - A special meeting of the Chatham Borough Board of Health was held to discuss the pros and cons of allowing home ownership of chickens on Thursday night.

Borough of Chatham Council members Carolyn Dempsey and Bob Weber both attended the meeting and offered the suggestion of a pilot program. But health board member Marilyn McCabe and health officer Megan Avallone countered with their opinions on the health risks.

The special meeting opened with a presentation by Jeff Kaplan, the father of Gabby Kaplan, a fourth grader in Chatham who advocated for the ownership of chickens at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting in May. Her father gave her presentation to the board that she had recorded (as she was at camp already), which presented points of support including that chickens eat insects, provide compost, and provide healthy eggs.

Sign Up for E-News

Dempsey then continued to speak in support of a pilot program (see video below) with limited permits and said: “If all these other towns are passing ordinances, why not the Borough?”

McCabe presented concerns about chicken ownership, referring to the legislation passed in Maplewood.

“People are nervous of the public aspects of these chickens," McCabe said. "In Maplewood, many streets are restricted on where they are allowed to be. Currently, public health officials are associating salmonella outbreaks with backyard flocks taken care of by families and children.” 

Weber suggested an online interactive course in chicken care that would be necessary to complete to apply for a permit (see the video below).

Avallone stated her concern that an online course would not be enough experience and education to be able to raise chickens without prior knowledge. Weber continued to stress throughout the meeting, along with McCabe, that this meeting was simply to reintroduce the idea, and not to decide or vote. Weber presented the idea of a pilot. 

Avallone expressed concern of diseases, odor, and the noise and look of chickens all over small suburban properties like the ones in Chatham Borough. Avallone continued that “the other concern with these backyard chickens involves evidence that show chickens raised in coops can spread some forms of chlamydia, which can be dangerous to children and adults."

As many of the health board members were absent from this meeting, the discussion will be revisited at the meeting next month.