Local News

Durham residents fight for right to raise chickens

Posted August 2, 2008 4:29 p.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2008 3:28 p.m. EDT

— 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.