Newsweek magazine has a feature this week on the phenomenon of City Chickens, the increase in people in urban and suburban communities keeping chickens, http://www.newsweek.com/id/168740. The reporter mentions two people who have touched my work, Dennis Harrison-Noonan and Owen Taylor of Just Food in Manhattan.
Dennis designs chicken coops and sells plans for those who are handy to build themselves at home. A picture of one is in my book, along with a picture of this one, illustrating community gardens. Dennis' son built this one as his Eagle Scout project.
Owen Taylor uses How to Raise Chickens in advising urban chicken owners in New York, see the blog entry of October 30, 2007.
The article mentions fears of Bird Flu and takes a much more measured and scientifically based attitude toward it. "But avian flu has not shown up in wild birds, domestic poultry or people in the United States. And, as the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute (an environmental research group) pointed out in a report last month, http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5900, experts including the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production have said that if we do see it, it'll be more likely to be found in factory-farmed poultry than backyard chickens. As GRAIN, an international sustainable agriculture group, concluded in a 2006 report: 'When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem.'"
The U.S. Geological Survey continues to attempt to make something of very little in a recent press release, www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2004. Their oversight project analysed samples from 1,400 pintail ducks and found that less than half of them contained gene segments more closely related to Asian influenza forms than North American forms. The research identified only segments from low pathologic Avian Influenza.
USGS claims this challenges the claim that intercontinental transfer of AI is rare. However, it documents that thus far, despite intensive oversight and sampling, transfer from Asia to North America via migratory waterfowl is not established at all. Identifying one of eight segments of the virus does not qualify as proving that it is coming. It sounds more like they are coming ever closer to proving the negative.
After all, we know that the birds migrate and bring their innards and germs with them. I'm encouraged that USGS hasn't found any Bird Flu at all.