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Zoning: Council adds a chicken to every lot

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Supporters of backyard chickens argued for and against a county poultry ordinance before it was adopted by Georgetown County Council this week.

Council members agreed to add a chicken, allowing four hens on 10,000-square foot residential lots, and letting owners have a coop within 50 feet of an adjoining property line rather than 100 feet before approving third and final reading of the ordinance. It allows a maximum of 16 chickens on larger lots but no roosters.

Ken Moran Calhoun said the ordinance was “bureaucratic overreach” by the county, and restricting homeowners in residential neighborhoods to hens only is “a de facto chicken ban” because roosters are necessary to produce biddies and replace the flock. “This is a grab for authority on an issue that does not exist,” he said. “I don’t want anyone at the Planning Commission making decisions about my property. I want people to make decisions.”

Calhoun said limiting the number of chickens is prejudicial to the economically disadvantaged. “I thought the day of Jim Crowe was passed,” he said. “They can’t have chickens because they can’t afford a 10-acre spread.”

Amber Bradshaw, who has chickens in her yard off the South Causeway, said she’s not violating any laws until this ordinance goes into effect. “The law restricts the majority of us,” she said. “By limiting chickens you help the wealthy who have over an acre of land.” She said it takes a flock of 18 to 20 chickens to supply a family of six with eggs. “You are leaving out the minority,” she said. “We can’t afford to sell our home and buy acres of land.”

Shannon Davis of Hagley said she felt bullied and threatened by zoning officials when her neighbor complained about her chickens. She opposed the ordinance. “There’s no reason to regulate chickens,” she said. “They are not livestock. They are pets.”

Flo Phillips of the Pawleys Island area said she too opposed limits on chickens and showed council members a basket of eggs she had collected.

Sandi Shelley of Hagley said she lives next to the Davises and said their chickens have “turned her world upside down.” She said she is awakened at 3:45 a.m. by roosters crowing. Moving her bedroom to the opposite side of the house, at a cost of $60,000, has done nothing to help, she said. The October flooding carried chicken manure into her yard, killing blueberries, grape vines, garden vegetables and flowers she had transplanted from her grandmother’s yard. “The roosters crow continually,” Shelley said. “It’s an absolute nightmare. They have completely destroyed our life.” She offered members of the council pictures of her yard.

Dawn Currie and Dennis Minkler, both of Hagley, said they feared allowing chickens would lead to other farm animals in residential neighborhoods. Jimmy Howard and Pam Wise said they saw no reason to restrict the number of chickens.

Jason Boan, an attorney who represented some Hagley residents before the Planning Commission, told council members he favored the proposed ordinance. “These are people who want to use their land in a free and sustainable way,” he said. “The ordinance will give you a framework of who can and who can’t have chickens.”

Chickens will not be allowed in developments with deed restrictions or home owners associations with rules against them. The Hagley HOA is voluntary and has no means of enforcing restrictions.

County planning director Boyd Johnson said the ordinance was intended to make it easier to have chickens in residential neighborhoods. The restrictions don’t apply to most of the county, which is zoned Farm and Agriculture. “There are plenty of places you can currently have chickens,” he said. “Many neighborhoods don’t have POA’s.”

Johnson agreed with an amendment offered by Austin Beard to reduce the space for a coop from an adjoining property line from 100 to 50 feet as “more friendly to chicken owners.”

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