After being presented with a petition at last week’s Board of Commission meeting in Walton County, Board Chairman Kevin Little has asked Walton County Planning and Zoning to take another look at the County’s current livestock ordinance as it applies to backyard chickens. This all came about after Walton County resident Christina Kluge found out the pet chickens that she had in her Loganville area home were not legal. As a result, she has had to move them to a neighbor’s property.
Addressing the BOC at the May meeting, Kluge said when she first got the chickens she was not aware they were not allowed.
“I’m here to discuss the R1 zoning and it being amended to allow for backyard chickens. I live on over an acre property in a subdivision and have been there for over 17 years,” she said going on to say it is a small subdivision with 19 homes all over an acre. “I love my neighborhood and my chickens. When I first got my chickens, or my chicks, I called my neighbors to see if was going to be OK with them and I agreed to have no roosters. I called the zoning office and was told that it was fine, so I got chickens.”
Walton County Planning Director Mike Martin has said that it has never been OK to have livestock in a recorded subdivision. The ordinance for other areas in the county that are not zoned specifically agricultural, however, do allow for certain livestock – but even that does not include chickens. It was updated in 2013 to exclude chickens, which was after Kluge had got her chickens, but Martin said it did not include a grandfather clause. Kluge’s problems came after the zoning office received a complaint about her chickens, but she says nobody has addressed her directly. There have, however, been anonymous complaints.
Kluge said she is not alone in having chickens and she is asking the BOC to look at amending it for everyone in her position. She said with the move to live healthy, more people are looking keeping backyard flocks. She said they are pets and she keeps them healthy and takes them to the vet.
“In fact, my vet says he sees lots of chickens, weekly,” Kluge said.
The issue of backyard chickens in more urban areas has become an issue in many areas, nationally, and Kluge pointed out the surrounding areas that are chicken friendly.
“I’ve done research and found that Hall County, Fulton county Dekalb County, Morgan County – they’re all chicken friendly in our line. Even Buckhead, I mean I can live in Buckhead on less than 1/4 acre and have chickens. I even found out the other day that New York City allows chickens with no restrictions. You can have as many as you want.”
Kluge asked that Walton County consider amending the ordinance, possibly consider issuing permits, that would allow for the keeping of backyard chickens in the R1 zoning. She turned over a petition with more than 125 signatures. Kluge said she is asking commissioners to consider the change for the many other chicken owners who would lose their chickens if just one person complained about them.
“I was able to keep mine. I moved my coop and was able to put it on a neighbors property,” Kluge said, adding that there are a lot of people who do not have that same opportunity. “They could lose their chickens if just one person complained.”
“What we do is we will refer this to our planning and zoning to review and then somebody will contact you,” Walton County BOC Chairman Kevin Little said. “I know a lot of the other counties that have it – it is different. Every county’s codes and ordinances and their zonings are are different. I know it is like two acres in Dekalb. But we will definitely look at it and take it under consideration. I know a lot of people do have chickens.”
While Kluge was petitioning Walton County’s BOC on Tuesday night, Athens-Clarke County was approving an ordinance that allowed for up to six chickens to be kept as backyard pets, under specific conditions. According to AthensOnline, it is a trial ordinance that will be reviewed after a year.