Backyard Chickens: Cluckin' Good Idea?
A Marietta man has been attempting to amend the Cobb County Code to allow residents to keep chickens on small residential plots.
A Cobb County man who has been cited for keeping chickens in his backyard is continuing his fight against the 40-year-old zoning laws that are responsible for the loss of his pets.
Joseph Pond of Marietta was cited on June 29, 2011 by Cobb County Code Enforcement for keeping chickens on his property. Pond attempted to receive a variance to allow him to keep his chickens but was denied. He took his case to state court but it was thrown out when some paperwork was improperly filed. After another notice of violation, Pond surrendered his chickens in Fall, 2011.
Pond is now the head of the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County. The goal of the organization is to alter the text of Section 134-1 of the Code of Cobb County which reads:
“Livestock, nondomestic and wild animals, and poultry means animals, nondomestic and wild animals, and species of the avian family which are or may be raised for the purpose of providing food or transportation, or being resold or bred, excluding only dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, pet mice, hamsters, gerbils, parrots and parakeets.”
Any animal that falls within this definition cannot under law be kept on residential property of less than two acres. Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County wants poultry to be added to the exemption list.
“That definition was all fine and good in 1972 [when the code was first created],” said Pond. “Back then, there were only 200,000 Cobb County residents and the average lot size was two acres.”
In recent times, county population has increased to over 700,000, meaning the average residential land plot is now less than one-half acre. Only three percent of residential land in Cobb County is still in a parcel large enough to legally allow chickens, according to Pond.
Pond and his organization have garnered support from various businesses, religious and civil leaders, and ordinary residents who want to be allowed to legally own chickens as pets and for the eggs their chickens will lay.
“Given the current economic climate and the desires of people to go organic to eliminate the poisons in commercial foods, denying chickens makes no sense. It's like denying you to have your food,” wrote one supporter on Pond's website.
Many Cobb residents do keep chickens on small parcels, but are not actively investigated by Code Enforcement unless a neighbor raises a complaint about them.
“I think a lot of people think of giant, stinking chicken coops when they think of 'backyard chickens,'' said Pond. He believes that this aversion to the smell and nuisance of the large chicken farms in rural areas creates a “not in my backyard” effect which causes neighbors to report the chickens to Code Enforcement.
Pond claims that chickens are in fact cleaner and less of a nuisance than some regularly-accepted pets. “Two large dogs produce more waste than 10 hens,” he said. According to a study undertaken by Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County, the sound of a rooster crowing and a dog barking are both 90 decibels, a measure of intensity of sound.
Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County's latest drive is a petition, supported by many businesses and citizens, to have Section 134-1 of the Code of Cobb County examined during the next yearly review session in 2013. There would be three public hearings regarding any proposed changes to the code, followed by a vote by the Board of Commissioners.