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The case for chickens / April 11, 2013
Before counting one’s chickens, change the code.

That’s the challenge for a South Boston resident who appeared before the Town Planning Commission last night to appeal for permission to keep chickens in her yard.

Joy Coe, the mother of five, has appealed to the town to let her keep three chickens at her Grove Avenue home, a request that ultimately will require amending the town’s zoning ordinance. As the rules now exist, “you really can’t do it,” said Town Manager Ted Daniel.

The town has a livestock ordinance in the books but few properties have the required acreage to provide a home for even one chicken, much less three.

Coe, however, says South Boston should consider the benefits of allowing residents to keep hens around (not roosters, though, which are too loud for the neighbors). “It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the kids, it’s a good food source.”

The eggs, that is.

Coe said she has friends who can keep her supplied with farm-raised eggs, but she added that more people — including her family — are becoming aware of the benefits of small-scale, local food production

She speculates that property restrictions on chickens grew up in the aftermath of World War II, when the economy was booming and it became unfashionable to be associated with the deprivations of the Depression era, including raising one’s own chickens.

“I think it became something of a status symbol not to have to raise your own chickens,” she said.

The worm has begun to turn, however, with upscale municipalities such as Raleigh, Charlottesville and Richmond amending their zoning rules to allow homeowners to keep a few chickens on hand. The rules have been accompanied by stipulations for enclosure types, property setbacks and other rules that Coe says she would favor in town.

Her family’s chickens are kept in a moveable enclosure, which allows the fowl to move around the yard and feast on fresh grass, bugs and other food. They leave a nice layer of fertilizer for the benefit of her lawn.

“They’re happy chickens,” she said.

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If Cary NC, the epitome of Stepford housing and HOA stupidity, allows backyard chickens then there is no compelling reason for a town like South Boston not to allow it.

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