Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Did the Chickens Cross the Road?

For almost 2 years now, my husband and I have been making many steps toward a healthier (and more frugal!) lifestyle. We started simple: switching our sweetener of choice from refined sugar to Sucanat and raw local honey; switching from pasteurized milk for me and soy milk for dh to fresh, local, raw milk (which I prefer to call real milk); and milling our own flour from whole grains.

This year, we added a few things to the mix. Having moved into a house with a gigantic yard (and a landlady who actually asked us to have a garden), we started with four raised garden beds, and then added a long row for corns, beans, squash, and watermelon to all grow in tandem. Then we thought, "good, free range chicken is so expensive, but we really do not want to eat all this soy-filled, antibiotic laden, factory chicken." So, we ordered some chickens from a hatchery and have a few hens for laying, a loud, but gorgeous rooster (appropriately named Chauntecleer), and several large breed birds to put in the freezer. That went relatively well (though we lost quite a few of them to neighborhood dogs), so we recently ordered several more chickens to add to our layers and put quite a few more broilers in the freezer (and share some with friends and family).

We know several people who have chickens in the city limits (city is a misnomer, by the way, our tiny town is comprised of about 10,000 people), who have had no problems with City Code Enforcement. Everything changed for us yesterday. Just as I was trying to get back to sleep for a bit after a long night with our newborn, CCE came knocking on our door loudly (and early!), telling us that we cannot have chickens in the city limits.

Frustrated. Disheartened. Discouraged. Angry. All of these words applied. We have invested a lot of time, energy, and money (which is the hardest of the three to come by, it seems) into these birds, and had no problems with any neighbors or anything in the near year we had been raising them. However, the Code Enforcement Marshall who came by did not serve us an official notice, which put my husband on the research trail.

As it so happens, the state of Georgia has a law that our Marshall apparently does not know about. On top of that, there is another, more precise bill presently awaiting a vote in the legislature.

The law, signed by Governor Sonny Perdue in May of 2009, states that "No county, municipality, consolidated government or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt or enforce any ordinance, rule, regulation or resolution regulating crop management or animal husbandry practices involved in the production of agricultural or farm products on any private property.”

We are hoping this is enough to allow us to keep our hens and the broilers, though we are giving our loud rooster away to our dairy farmer. In case it does not, however, we are encouraging all of our friends in the state of Georgia to contact their representatives in support of this bill, which states:

(b) No county, municipality, consolidated government, or local government authority shall prohibit or require any permit for the growing or raising of food crops or chickens, rabbits, or milk goats in:
(1) Home gardens, coops, or pens on private residential property so long as such food crops or animals or the products thereof are used for human consumption by the occupant of such property and members of his or her household and not for commercial purposes; and
(2) Community or cooperative gardens, coops, or pens on any portion of any private lot made available for such purposes by the occupant thereof so long as the total lot size is not more than 2.75 acres and the food crops or animals or the products thereof are used for human consumption by the growers and raisers and members of their households and not for commercial purposes; provided, however, that the slaughter of goats kept pursuant to this Code section shall be prohibited.

If you live in the state of Georgia, please contact your representative ASAP! The rights of individuals to raise food for themselves that keeps to our preferred health standards should not be compromised!  If you live elsewhere, contact your representatives in the state government and tell them that you want similar legislation protecting your right to grow your own food; or better yet, contact your state representatives to encourage them to vote no on S.510! 

This post is a part of Save Farm Freedom Friday @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Visit her page for more great posts!


  1. great post Melody! Way to do your research and inform the public of local government issues, too. I'm all for "farm freedom" and have great admiration for anyone even attempting to live a more wholesome, whole-foods lifestyle! We planted four raised beds this year as well and you really have to believe in it whole-heartedly because it's so much work ( sometimes with little returns ). I can't imagine some official coming to your door and telling you your efforts were all for naught! Hope you win this fight...

  2. Thanks, Rachel! I didn't realize we had so much in common...that's pretty awesome. I'm hoping things turn out in our favor, too. I appreciate the encouragement :)