I like chickens. I like eggs. I like chicken sammiches. I like chicken tenders. Alas, not everyone likes chicken(s).

chicken-011In Houston County, we have Big Brother watching over us, lording over us if you will, to make sure that our chickens don’t become a nuisance. To accomplish that oversight, the county relies on zoning. There is no county ordinance against having chickens in your backyard. But there is a county ordinance about violating zoning rules. And zoning is where the Wizard of Oz prohibits chickens.

If you live in what is generally called a “subdivision,” you are probably prohibited from having chickens. Places that have farm sounding names like Royal Oaks, Crestview Plantation, The Farm, Magnolia Hill, Quail Run, Southfield Plantation and the like are usually zoned R-1. The means “residence, one dwelling, one family.” There is also a R-2, R-3 and R-4, but I’ll just point out that all of those have the same restrictions as R-1, wherein chickens are prohibited. Are they prohibited if your lot is 5 acres? Yes. Are the prohibited if you live in a “zero lot line” yard? Yes. There is no magic to it, if you are R-1, no chickens for you.

Why? Because chickens can be a nuisance. If you don’t care for your chickens, if you allow the chicken manure to build up, if you have roosters, if you let chickens roam the neighborhood, then you and your chickens are a nuisance. So to keep that from happening, the Gods have just forbidden chickens. Period. Can’t have them. Unless you live in R-AG, which means “residence, agriculture.” Now what’s interesting is that your neighbor directly behind your R-1 house might be R-AG and can have chickens. Even though he can have a yard a fraction the size of yours.

You see, it’s hard in Houston County to have consistency because we, like most of Georgia, are made up of a hodgepodge of zoning rules. We have mobile homes next to $500,000 houses. We have apartments, townhouses and McMansions on the same street. It’s what we do. We allow people to have freedom of choice when it comes to their residence. But not when it comes to chickens.

Back to my example of the R-AG neighbor with chickens. Can he allow his chickens to become a nuisance and be burdensome to you? No. If he did, you could call the county and have your neighbor cited for a nuisance violation. A court would hear it and decide. And that is the way it ought to be. But because our Overlords don’t want to be bothered with possible complaints, they just make it illegal for subdivision dwellers to have chickens, no matter how clean, tidy and well maintained they keep their chickens. Because chickens might be a problem, simply ban chickens. Barking dogs are permitted. Roaming cats are permitted. But penned up chickens? Nope.

A neighbor with an unkempt house, with gutters falling down, with a paint job needed badly, with an overgrown yard, will likely forever escape any punishment, even though that house brings down the appearance of the entire neighborhood. But at least he doesn’t have chickens.

Now I know people who have chickens in violation of the zoning rules. They also have neighbors who don’t mind the chickens that never venture into their yard, don’t make a sound (no roosters) and because the henhouse is maintained, there is no smell. These outlaws somehow manage to evade the Policia by following common sense guidelines. But they are criminals nonetheless.

Remember liberty? It is becoming a distant memory.

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