Feathers Ruffled in Montgomery County

Suburban living hasn’t always offered a very chicken-friendly way of life, but where I live that could be changing.  Montgomery County, just north of our Nation’s Capital, about 12 miles as a crow flies or as a chicken walks, is now considering relaxing its zoning requirements for chickens.   Since 1955, County zoning required chicken coops to be at least 25 feet from a property boundary and 100 feet from your closest neighbor’s home, which pretty much has been a defacto prohibition for the vast majority of Montgomery residents.  Under the new law, chicken coops would be required to be at least five feet from the property line and 15 feet from the nearest home, with a limit of one chicken per 1000 square feet of property and maximum of eight birds.

This idea has ruffled the feathers of some residents, however, who remain opposed to the County’s consideration on unfounded concerns about odor and health-related matters.

No doubt this could create tensions in some neighborhoods, but I think relaxing the requirements is a good development and the discussion can only help advance the principles and benefits of localism.  Good story on the benefits of backyard chickens here.  And linking to a story of Mark Mitchell’s (of Front Porch Republic) foray into the world of chickens and chicken-keeping tips from his readers.

As a young boy, I loved chickens, not just for barbecuing, but as pets.  I was 10 when my folks let me get my first one.  Caesar, a bantam-rooster, pictured here in the middle with some of his offspring stood 14″ high and weighed no more than a pound-and-a-half.  Caesar, who was given to me by a friend, had been raised with rough and tumble guinea hens on a farm on the outskirts of Greensboro, NC., so could hold his own with anyone and anything.  I eventually moved from Bantams to Brahmas, which I got as mail-order chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery.  The Brahmas are quite a striking bird and the dozen hens provided lots of really tasty, extra-large eggs.  Despite embarrassing my brother and offending his urbanejethro-300x300 sensibilities, I loved the experience as a kid and I learned many things about animal husbandry, sustainability, and the care, responsibility, and source of essential food items.  When my family moved from Greensboro to Longview, Texas, I took a few of my chickens with me, a larger rooster named Bruiser (pictured here) and two hens.  Much entertainment and life-values gained through keeping these fully-feathered friends.  And our family did what was necessary to keep the peace with our non-feathered neighbors, including keeping the coop clean and every evening putting Bruiser into a dark wooden box, to keep him from doing what roosters do best at 4:30 a.m.

I’m pleased that Montgomery County is considering this change.  Now, all I have to do, with the help of my two girls – who are strongly in favor of a chicken friendly neighborhood – is persuade our Homeowners Association to be as enlightened as the County.