Wondering what the health risks of living near a chicken farm are? It's no secret that some chicken farms house tens of thousands of chickens in confined spaces. There are some risks of diseases, bacteria spreading, and of course, the smell.
In this article, I’m going to explain what you do - and don’t - need to be worried about if you live near a chicken farm.
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What Does ‘Chicken Farm’ Mean?
A chicken farm is a form of animal husbandry where domesticated chickens are raised for their meat.
These chickens are called broiler chickens. This is the name given to any chickens that are bred and raised specifically for meat production.
It's estimated that in the United States alone, approximately 9 billion chickens are slaughtered each year for their meat.
There are also around 305 million hens being used for their eggs, too. These are typically kept in what’s called egg farms.
It’s worth checking if it’s indeed a chicken farm or an egg farm near you. If you can see and hear a lot of chickens, it might not be obvious if they’re being kept for their meat or eggs.
Related - A look at ISA Brown chickens, one of the best commercial egg-laying breeds.
Is It Bad to Live Near a Chicken Farm?
As the increasing demand for chicken meat continues to rise, there are more and more chicken houses popping up across the country.
I've seen some chicken houses without around 20,000 chickens inside. Multiply that by any number of houses on a single farm, and you get a good idea of how many chickens you could be living around the corner from.
Living close to any large industrial or commercial operation usually comes with some downsides.
In the case of chicken farms, you know they're generating hundreds of tons of waste each year. Getting through hundreds of tons a feed, and butchering tens of thousands of chickens.
The main issues of living near a chicken farm is the smell, the noise, and the risk of diseases. Here’s a closer look at these three things and how they may affect you:
Are There Health Risks of Living Near a Chicken Farm?
There are certainly some serious health risks for the farmers and other workers working on a chicken farm.
As for what your risk is, that mostly depends on how close you are to the farm.
Ammonia is bad enough, and there is always the risk of bacteria and diseases like salmonella being present.
Most chicken farms use chicken poop as fertilizer. This produces a number of harmful chemicals, such as nitrogen, potassium, and of course ammonia which is present in chicken poop.
Essentially, any combination of rotten carcasses, poop, manure, feed, and chicken bedding can produce harmful gas emissions.
These particles, sometimes called poultry dust, are air borne. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any reliable studies into how far poultry dust or these gas emissions will travel.
Again this is probably because it comes down to some factors like the strength of the chemicals, strength of the wind carrying them, etc.
One thing we do know is that for the workers on the farm, it's incredibly dangerous for them to breathe this stuff in. But they have the proper protective equipment and masks.
As for the health risks for you, you would need an independent evaluation performed to look at the quality of the air you are breathing.
If you can smell the chicken house from where you live, that's certainly a bad sign.
How Far Can You Smell Chicken Houses?
This is hard to answer accurately because it is going to depend on how many chickens are on the farm, how strong the smell is, is and how strong the wind blows in your direction.
I did a great deal of research into this, and what I can tell you is that on the bad day when the farmers are cleaning out the chicken houses some people report smelling it several miles away.
In contrast, some people happily live within about 2000 feet of a chicken house and say it's not a problem at all.
Honestly, the best answer to this question and the best advice I can give anyone that is thinking about moving into a home near to a chicken farm is to check out the area for themselves.
Obviously, purchasing a home is a big deal, as is being able to smell a chicken farm. You should visit the home at different times of the day, and during different weather conditions, and just see for yourself if you can smell any odor from the chicken house.
It's a pretty foul odor and is easy to detect. I've read accounts from some homeowners who describe it as a living hell, so move with caution.
Is It Noisy Living Near a Chicken Farm?
It's incredibly noisy to be inside a chicken house. If you raise backyard chickens, just a small flock are able to make a lot of noise sometimes. So, imagine being in a large shed with thousands of chickens
Few people live close enough to chicken farms that they can actually hear the hens clucking, squawking, and flapping around though.
Most of the noise complaints come from the large machinery being used throughout the night, and large delivery trucks coming in and out.
As with the potential smell, if you are looking at buying a house near a chicken farm I'd certainly be checking it out all times of day and night to see if you can hear the farm at work.
Hopefully, you're now more aware of the potential health risks of living near a chicken farm.
As I explained, however, it’s difficult to gauge what the risks are exactly for you without assessing your location and proximity to the farm.
If you're concerned, you should have someone from the environmental office come out and give you their professional opinion.
Image credits - Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash