I've got four hens, and I keep them in my front yard.
For shelter, they are kept within some chicken wire fencing we made, which is not really secure because they often escape their area, which is not really a big deal to me as they stay generally within the boundaries of the front yard, and there is basically no predator pressure here.
They've recently discovered the back yard, where we have grass (The front has some bushes but is mostly covered with wood chip mulch, which they like to scratch through).
I don't really mind them in the backyard, which is where we have the compost pile, which they also like to scratch through. If they have temporary access to grass or clover from the back, before I escort them back to their designated spot, I think it's a good thing, let them have a little snack.
My wife, on the other hand, sees things differently. She is greatly concerned about them pooping in the backyard, which could easily happen.
I don't know if she's worried for health reasons and wants to avoid diseases that might be spread by stepping into it, or if she just finds the idea disgusting.
If I find poop anywhere, front or back, I usually bury it or spray it with a hose so it sinks into the soil, or transport it to the compost pile, or make something like a manure tea. I don't let it just sit and wait for someone to step in it.
Which brings me to...
This morning my wife woke me up far earlier than I had intended to wake up to tell me that all four hens were in the backyard, and she insisted that I immediately bring them back to the front yard to their area.
I hold the view that if you have a problem, deal with it, not wake-someone-up-and-tell-them-to-deal-with-it, and I suppose nobody LIKES losing sleep, but since I'm now wide awake, I'm curious:
1. Are there any serious health hazards inherent in chicken poop that good hygiene can't mitigate?
Hmm, I thought there would be more questions.
Her disgust seems to be about to connection between poop and the ground. She doesn't mind the fertilizer tea, it only seems to have to do with the idea of stepping in it.
My stance is, birds of all sorts, and indeed, animals of all sorts, have been pooping and peeing in our backyard since before we lived here, and her aversion is to the realization that animals could poop in her walking space. It's not just hypothetical poop, but there is a realistic potential for actual poop. Nothing has changed by adding four hens, except for the amount and variety of poop, all of which is part of the natural process which has been taking place for millenia.
I'm not looking for ammunition to win a fight with my wife, but would appreciate any insight you can offer, as I'm looking to learn something. And FYI, we are still trying to figure out how they are escaping, and have tried quite a few different configurations. Once we've found a solution that prevents them from getting out, we will stop losing sleep over this, literally and figuratively.
The danger of bird poop does not seem to derive so much from the poop itself, rather what eats and lives off of the poop. Here is an article that discusses the ins and outs of what bird poop is to how to handle it properly.
There was a nice informative video on YouTube about bird poop that might change how people view poop:
My understanding is that chicken poop is not the kind of poop that carries a lot of human diseases, so it's 'safer' than dog poop. Maybe If you controlled the hens for a while and give it time your wife will get used to the idea of poop, and not wake you up over chicken litter. Spraying every pile with the hose sounds like a lot of work and water since chickens poop so much. I usually just sweep any poops off the sidewalk and call it good.
In a previous setup my chickens had access to a long walkway and they frequently shat all over it. My wife was bothered because it meant that everyone coming over had to take their shoes off when entering the house, or poop might get in. Like your situation, this was bothersome to all, so I had to change things up and limit the chickens access.
One thing I have done with some success, is to openly chase them when they get out of their designated area. If a young hen gets the idea that she will just fly the coop and go into another section of the yard or garden I will give her a good shock by running and chasing a bit. Nothing too extreme, just get her feathers ruffled and get her back where she belongs. I have done this to certain hens a few days in a row and it actually seems to deter them from getting out. I think being raised by hens also give them the attitude that they prefer I not touch them, so it works out.
You would have to practically ingest a certain amount of their droppings for there to be any dangerous health effects. Chickens, being fed mostly grain products, do not harbor the same bacteria meat-eaters like dogs or cats do in their poop, so I have far less worries about where my chickens go than a house pet. I think that the 'ick' factor is what is mostly off-putting.
All of the following truths are shameless lies. But what about this tiny ad:
Wildlife Web Kickstarter: Participate in the Web of Life