CO laws on poultry care? Animal neglect in a public park, CO.

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by HensSweetHens, Dec 27, 2018.

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  1. HensSweetHens

    HensSweetHens Chirping

    Aug 17, 2018
    Dear Backyard Chicken community!
    (I do realize it's a longer post, and so I thank you for hanging in there while I give a full account.)

    I am writing to ask your advice on an issue of animal neglect in a public park here in Colorado. (The coop + chickens belong to the government park/museum) Please bear with me...I'll try to make my summary as concise as I can.
    Twelve chickens total, mostly older birds. There is a chicken wire fence around the pen area (pen is fairly large) with a little bit of mulch on the ground and two dusting areas in the open.

    My observations and reasons for calling it "animal neglect":

    * No access to vegetation at all
    * Coop/pen overflowing with rats (they drink/eat from the chickens' feeding troughs)
    * Impacted/sour crop (giant crop clearly visible - wright after the coop is opened in the morning). I have successfully treated one of their hens with sour crop at my house that one lucky time when a kind volunteer and myself were able to take the sick chicken home. The director of the museum doesn't allow chickens to be taken from the coop no matter what the reason may be.
    * Intestinal worms (I saw round worms in the poop). When I inquired, the administration said the chickens aren't being wormed.
    * Bumble foot (I stay for a while at the coop when I bring them vegetables and I observe. Many hens there have the black scabs of bumblefoot.)
    * Lice (also seen w/ naked eye crawling on their heads)
    * Possible gout (deformation of foot in some birds)
    * Respiratory illness (chicken coughing+sneezing strenuously, shaking head + scratching the face excessively, fluid coming out the nostrils, discharge from eyes, etc.) - this has been going on and off for as long as I've been feeding them - 1.5 years.
    * Waterers (1-2 gal) aren't cleaned/refilled regularly and are frozen over (those that are outside in the pen area). There is a heated waterer inside the coop, which is good, but that's the one I've seen rats drink from.
    * Feeder is never cleaned out, the volunteers "only add to the feeder when is it's low on pellets" (was the answer when I asked the volunteers themselves)
    * Summer 2017 I saw a Polish Hat hen that was dark red/blueish in the face, falling over trying to walk and ultimately falling onto the ground unable to get up from the blasting heat of the sun. She acted like she was loosing consciousness (maybe a heart attack). Seeing that she was unable to get to the shade where other chickens were, I immediately ran to the Museum and asked them to help. They said that they'd bring a vet one of the days to check on the sick chicken. Next day - same story. I kept seeing that really struggling chicken and they told me that the vet said "everyone in the coop is healthy". This lasted about a week, with me running over to the museum, making calls, pleading with people responsible for the coop to help that poor bird. A few days later that chicken died (that's my guess, because I didn't see her in the coop/pen area anymore. I inquired at the Museum if they had euthanized her, they said "no").
    * Last fall 2017 we had 2 days of crazy cold (-8F at night) in mid October. I came to feed the chickens, and saw a heavily molting hen - pretty much featherless - lying on the ground of the coop - wings sprawled out, face down, shaking violently and pretty much unconscious - dying from hypothermia. Other chickens were coming by and pecking at her, to which she didn't react at all. (I had to throw a lettuce leaf to make them stop pecking her.) Ran to the museum to ask them for help yet again - just to find that it's closed on Tuesdays. No one has responded to my phone call or called back in response to my voicemail. (The museum is closed to visitors on Tue, but the staff is usually still in the bldg working.)

    (I have never seen an animal shake of cold like that hen did... and I couldn't help her because it's a government facility with a 7 ft high fenced around! :-((((....) The volunteers hardly ever check on the chickens during the day, when they do (those few times that I myself saw) - it is to take the eggs and leave right away. The volunteers might simply not know what signs to look for when a chicken is in ill, or in pain/distress - but that should not be an excuse when becoming a caretaker of animals. I tried talking to volunteers at the coop (occasionally I meet them there) about the ways to improve things, but have been ignored.

    * One of their hens has a lame leg (she hardly walks... slightly jumps rather). The night I was bringing in the hen I helped heal from sour crop back into the coop (the the help of that kind volunteer), I saw the hen with the lame leg lying on the ground of the coop for the night - unprotected from those giant rats and drafts in under the floor. It was 17F that moment.

    * The coop has tons of holes at the base, dug by rodents and the holes are becoming bigger and bigger. Volunteers or administration aren't doing anything to fill them in, and secure the coop from drafts.

    * There is a coin dispenser machine for scratch. That scratch is pretty much all corn, and is given to the chickens all year round (by visitors/their donations). Scratch is supposed to be given to chickens only in winter/cold months, otherwise they become fat and sickly. Most chickens are pretty large at the Golden coop, as they don't move much in that pen and keep eating scratch daily.

    I have talked to the lady at the museum who is in charge of the chicken coop and volunteer program probably 8 times or more... but was shut off every time. I've pleaded with her and the director of the museum for a chance to collaborate, offering my care giving and medication (dewomer) at no cost, no time on their part and no change to their day-to-day operations... The kind volunteer who has been super supportive and concerned has offered to cover the cost for vet visits/treatment numerous times...All we've gotten from them is "thank you but the chickens are fine and we do not need help at this time". The volunteer group does not have each other's contact info, so there is no open communication. There has not been any training provided on chicken keeping/care practices from the words of volunteers themselves.

    Since I've started asking people - visitors of the coop - for advice and trying to raise awareness, I've found out that the coop has been a high profile place for complaints, and the administration being "political" and ignorant of the issue. I've heard that people reported the museum for animal neglect before. Somehow the situation is still not good (it's been over a year now since I've started advocating for those poor birds; more than 5 years of this negligence - from what I've heard directly from visitors).

    My intent is not to cause trouble/harass anyone. I am just trying to help the birds, and the administration is very hostile to us volunteers, who see the issue of poor chicken care practices. What I've written above is a true account and not an exaggeration.

    I am at a loss, and in need of advice/help on the effective approach to change the situation for those birds? Who do I contact to raise more awareness?
    Referrals are welcome too, if you know anyone in CO or elsewhere who could help.
    Thank you SO MUCH for reading my post!
    Perhaps someone knows a link to Colorado poultry keeping law... (I found very little so far) Referrals are welcome too.

    Thank you SO MUCH for reading my post and I hope to hear from you guys soon.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
  2. HensSweetHens

    HensSweetHens Chirping

    Aug 17, 2018
    Thank you Brahmachicken240 for liking my post!:frow Hopefully more will see it and chime in.
    townchicks and Brahmachicken240 like this.
  3. HensSweetHens

    HensSweetHens Chirping

    Aug 17, 2018
    Thank you so much Raenh for the like! :)
    Brahmachicken240 likes this.
  4. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    I don't know what the laws are on poultry care in CO, but maybe you could try the following:
    - Find out who is in charge over the person/group that is in charge of that museum, and make the issue known to them. Just noticed you said it's government funded... see if you can find out which agency is supposed to be overseeing it, might be at the state level?
    - You didn't mention contacting animal control, I don't know who would be in charge of that in your area, but it's worth looking into, though they may not have jurisdiction over something government run.
    - Contact the media, either a local paper or local news station. It's amazing how even the threat of negative press can change someone's mind about how they handle things.
  5. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    Ok, so some of the points you make are more of a matter of opinion vs. something that would legitimately be viewed as neglect. For example you said there was frozen water in the run, but they still had access to a heated waterer. If they have water available they have water available and personally I would not be concerned about this. There are a wide variety of opinions on the best way to feed a flock, availability of forage, giving treats and scratch, even how often to clean an outside food dish that sits in the mud as well as what chemicals/soaps/cleaning products to use, so it might not match up with how you manage your flock but that doesn't instantly mean neglect either. If the chickens have food available that is not moldy or rotten and they are not of poor weight, they are doing their part to feed their flock.

    After reading through all your comments, I believe the most critical point that can be verified and can legally addressed would be the illnesses and parasites. Animal control should be able to offer a vet to do some sort of wellness check or request that the chicken owners produce records showing that they are working with a vet and treating the ailments. Their health is concerning. Any illnesses, parasites, injuries should be addressed. The county should have some sort of standard living conditions outlined that are required for poultry as well and this is something animal control should look at, adequate shelter, food, water, fencing (may or may not be required). Again this is something animal control checks on.

    In Colorado, Animal Control (unless it's a wild animal issue in which case you may need Division of Wildlife) is a division of the sheriff's office, so a call to them would be a good starting point.

    The rats are also concerning and if there is an infestation in a public place it's a public health and safety concern. I'm not sure who the appropriate contact would be for that, but perhaps the sheriff's office can point you in the right direction.

    Good luck, and thanks for looking out for this flock!
    RWBP, sharkerbaby, puffypoo and 12 others like this.
  6. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

    Jul 31, 2018
    Catalonia, Spain
    My Coop
    What @rosemarythyme said.
    Take pictures and the stuff in your post here and take it to the press.
    puffypoo, Shezadandy, Peepsi and 3 others like this.
  7. Brahma Chicken5000

    Brahma Chicken5000 Araucana Addict

    Sep 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    It’s very sad to hear that this park doesn’t care for their chickens. There’s a nice animal park by my town and I’ve dropped my cockerels off this summer and they are doing great. The employees really care for the animals.
    Take lots of pictures! Make sure date and time is available. You need to document the conditions of the chickens. You also have a witness, that nice volunteer who helped you with the hen with sour crop, who can corraborate your testimony. They said they had a vet come and give them the all clear, ask for the name of the vet and give some excuse why you want to get in touch with them. If they refuse to give you the name of the vet there probably was no vet. Contact the local humane society, if they won’t help call the police and report animal cruelty, if all else fails contact PETA and send them the photos.
  8. PirateGirl

    PirateGirl Chicken Lover, Duck Therapist

    Mar 11, 2017
    South Park, Colorado, USA
    Here is the link to Golden's code. Chapter 7 deals with animals, there is additionally one other section that speaks to poultry in residential areas being restricted to 6 hens also that fencing is required (so no free ranging).

    7.09.010 - Cruel treatment prohibited.

    It shall be unlawful for any person to commit or to cause to be committed any act of cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, harassment, abandonment or torture of any animal. Consistent therewith, it is unlawful for any person to unnecessarily beat or torment any animal; to overdrive, overload, drive when overloaded to or overwork any animal; to inhumanely trap or capture any animal; to unnecessarily fail to provide any animal in the person's care and custody with proper food, drink and protection from the weather; to carry any animal in or upon any vehicle without such restraint or control as to prevent injury or death to such animal, or to attach any animal to a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner, to cause any animal to be needlessly and/or cruelly wounded, mutilated, strangulated, or inhumanely killed; or in any other way to commit or cause to be committed any similar acts of cruelty or to inhumane treatment of any animal. Ownership of animals shall not be a justifiable defense for such acts or for a violation of this section.
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I need to see pictures of setup in question and ideally videos of sick birds as well. Too many times I have seen parties with issues against poultry keeping giving a very filtered perspective as they try to rally support for a cause. That said, animals maintained for public viewing need to held under conditions that are at least typical.
  10. HensSweetHens

    HensSweetHens Chirping

    Aug 17, 2018
    Very fair to say what you said, centrarchid. I really appreciate peoples' feedback. I agree that there are people/opinions that are overboard, and certainly I don't want to be that way. I have analyzed for a while if I should be getting involved. I asked people at the coop and chicken owners who I know for about a year, as well as a feed store people who used to donate food to the coop. there is even one veterinarian who has been aware of the issue for many years, and has been very upset with the way the admin. people run the coop. I found out that the Museum people are "very political" and have other priorities because they're understaffed and that they're fed up with people's complains. I have heard that the chicken coop is a "goldfish" and a money maker of the Museum and they try to protect that valuable asset, but if one goldfish dies they just ad another. I've heard many opinions.
    But I guess they listen to public opinion somewhat. About 4 years ago there was a rooster at that coop, who would just shred chicken's backs when mounting them. I know it's how it is with chickens, and not only roosters can do that to hens, but hens themselves do too. However, when there is no supervision or treatment provided to help hens heal, that can become life threatening. People started calling and complaining and the museum removed the rooster - so they listened to public then, thankfully. I believe that the museum people are not purposefully trying to harm the chickens. And some of the volunteers are really great people. I think it's just luck of knowledge about chickens, which the Museum overseers call "differing coop management styles".
    While there were some chickens whom no one could help (incurable/non-treatable chicken health conditions), I saw that certain things need to be improved. Unnecessary suffering can be avoided, but according to the lady in charge "per museum policy, we are not to give chickens any medical treatment, or medication except bandaging, because of a possibility that chicken's condition might get worse or result in death" - my volunteer friend read this email out loud to me yesterday. That kind of practice/policy does not make sense and needs to be changed.
    I have started documenting things now. I wish I shot on video the struggling hen that was in the blazing sun, or that hen on the ground dying of hypothermia but I was so shocked and heart-broken that it didn't come into my mind then. But I will be posting some photos/videos to show you guys as soon as I get them downloaded from my phone.
    puffypoo and townchicks like this.
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