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Durham residents fight for right to raise chickens

Posted August 2, 2008
Updated August 3, 2008

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— A group is trying to get an ordinance banning chickens from Durham city limits lifted.

DurhamHENS, an initiative of the Durham-based nonprofit South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS), has petitioned the City Council to allow chickens in urban and suburban backyards.

Chickens are allowed only in two generally rural districts in Durham.

Chris Crochetiere, a member of DurhamHENS, would love to have chickens in her yard. She loves to bake and would like to have fresh eggs to use.

“Some people are interested in sustainability, wanting to grow their own food. Some people are interested in not buying other food that has to get trucked in from far away,” Crochetiere said.

In a letter to the city council, organizers say more than 1,400 people have signed a petition in support of their request.

The group cites many other cities in the state that allow the birds. Raleigh allows the chickens with some restrictions. Chapel Hill caps the number allowed at 20 and requires them to be kept 30 feet from a neighbor's property.

Cary officials recently denied a request by citizens to allow chickens in other zoning districts.

Supporters are asking to keep a limited number of female chickens. Roosters would be prohibited.

“If you’re just having hens, there really isn’t a problem, as long as you take care of them, just like any other pet,” said Judy Thomson, a Durham County resident who has raised chickens for 10 years in a rural area.

Not everyone in the city supports the idea, resident Richard Scher said.

“Maybe on a farm I’m in favor of it, but I’d rather not have them in my neighborhood,” Scher said.

DurhamHENS will present its proposal to the joint city-county planning commission on Wednesday.

Durham's city planner has recommended that staff draft an amended ordinance. The City Council will make the final decision.

“If you don’t want to have chickens, we don’t care, but we’d really like to have the same right as other citizens in the state to have them if you want them,” Crochetiere said.

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  • emandmikey Aug 13, 2008

    This issue is cropping up all over the state. Cary, Sanford, and Wake Forest are all trying to change current restrictions against hens. Here in Wake Forest, I will be making a presentation to the Board of Commissioners on August 19th. The meeting starts at 7pm. I hope they will thoughtfully consider amending our current ordinance, which allows chickens but only after asking all neighbors within a 500 foot radius of your house. I would like to change the restrictions so you don't have to ask for the neighbors permission. You would still have to get an annual permit, though. My drafted amendments state restrictions on coop design, location, and prohibit roosters completely. Check out www.wfchickens.blogspot.com for more details, and if you're in the area - come show your support at the meeting on the 19th! (7pm)

  • kristenwarren Aug 4, 2008

    I have just a few backyard hens and only one neighbor can even tell (they have spotted them a time or two over the last 6 months). They are practically silent, you can't see them well, and certainly can't smell them. They are the best pets I've ever had and I don't even have eggs yets. I'm hooked!

  • thewayitis Aug 4, 2008

    I'm all for it, if people take care of them. Personally, I'd rather have hens next door than a barky dog, or an obnoxious cat that roams freely through my yard, doing her business...

  • mpheels Aug 4, 2008

    It's kind of funny to read about people who don't want chickens in their neighborhood b/c they belong on a farm - if it's just hens and they are well cared for then most neighbors wouldn't even know they were there. There seem to be a lot of socio-economic/image reasons for not allowing them, but the irony is that backyard flocks are very trendy, allowing them would show just how cosmopolitan Durham is...