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Backyard Chickens Prevail in Cobb

"I would much rather have a couple of chickens in my neighborhood than a couple of my neighbors," Maxine Saless of Marietta said.

If you live on a lot less than two acres in size and you want chickens in your backyard, Cobb County will at least consider your request now.

With Chairman Tim Lee and and District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell opposed, the Board of Commissioners Tuesday night voted 3-2 in favor of a code amendment that allows Cobb residents to apply to the Board of Zoning Appeals for backyard poultry on lots of that size.

The final vote didn't sit well with several East Cobb residents who urged commissioners earlier in the evening to oppose the amendment.

"I know first-hand what backyard chickens can do," Melanie Skinner said. "I had a neighbor who illegally was raising them on ¾ of an acre. When you have poultry in your backyard, it's going to bring the vermin, the vultures, the coyotes into your area. It's not just having chickens in your backyard. It's what the chickens are going to bring in your neighborhood."

The president of the East Cobb Civic Association also spoke out against the amendment. 

"We cannot support the proposed amendment as written," Jill Flamm said. "It does not differentiate as to why backyard chickens are any different than any other types of livestock with respect to food or companionship. It opens the door to yet other forms of livestock or we may face continually opening the code to other amendments."

Flamm and Skinner, however, were in the minority.

Until Tuesday, residents weren't allowed to own any livestock on lots less than two acres. Clad in yellow and red T-shirts and buttons, the majority of the speakers at Tuesday night's meeting said it was time to change that. They said commissioners were wasting their time trying to regulate chickens.

"To me, it's not logical that I can have a neighbor on the left of me who can have 15 dogs or cats or turtles or fish and then my neighbor on the right is only allowed to have one chicken," said Lisa Baer of Acworth. "I read the news a lot and I have yet to hear about a child being mauled to death by a chicken."

Ray Palermo of East Cobb said he knows of neighbors in his subdivision who own boa constrictors, iguanas, monkeys and pit bulls.

"I don't even know why we're here talking about a chicken," he said. "... I moved here 32 years ago when my next door neighbor was a horse and there was horse poop everywhere—including down the side of my house. That was just where I chose to live. This is a lifestyle issue."

Maxine Saless of Marietta drew one of the loudest applauses of the night after she spoke in favor of the code amendment.

"I would much rather have a couple of chickens in my neighborhood than a couple of my neighbors."

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Norman February 27, 2013 at 06:30 PM
I'm glad they were at least thoughtful in their voting. Any kind of animal brings along potential unintended consequences, chickens included. However, they should also address those issues where people have multiple dogs, exotic pets, etc. Responsible owners should not be penalized because of a minority irresponsible owners.
Margaret Thomson February 27, 2013 at 07:13 PM
The chicken owners better not expect the county to do something when the chickens bring coyotes. There are coyotes all over Cobb Co. (we had 4 pets taken by some a few years ago, including one seen by a neighbor carrying off a cat), and the chickens will attract them. DON'T COMPLAIN IF THIS HAPPENS!!!!
Cindy February 27, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Maxine Saless hit the nail on the head with that statement! As far as the vermin, vultures, the coyotes in Cobb County, they have always been in Cobb and throughout the state. If someone wants to have a couple of chickens let them, these people pay the same taxes to Cobb County as the person who ownes dog(s) and/or cat(s) and if they keep the area where they are housed clean and don't abuse the animals what's the problem? Animals help people to live longer and reduces stress, everyone should own at least one animal. I own a couple of Schnauzers who are smarter, friendlier and have better manners than some people I have met.
Sean February 28, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Coyotes are legal to hunt year round, with no limits too...Those animals lived here before we did. We moved into their backyard. I've been a Cobb resident for almost 40 years, grew up here, went to school here, and am raising my family here. I have no issue with anyone that wants to have backyard chickens, or any other type of pet. Have at it people, get some Alpacas, or Llamas, or Fennec Foxes, I don't care..
Amy February 28, 2013 at 05:43 PM
How are the chickens attracting coyotes when you say they are already here?
Woody J February 28, 2013 at 07:13 PM
I vote for chickens, but only if one rooster is included. Seems the roosters, now days, don't remember crowing times.
Observer February 28, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Well now, Cobb County has said that you can have chickens, but what about the City of Smyrna? Try asking that question and you will get the same answer that I did, that the City of Smyrna declines to answer, but reserves the right to act should they deem action necessary. Which you can decipher as - We not going to say you can have chickens, but if you have chickens, we're going to tell you you can't have chickens.
Melinda Paris March 01, 2013 at 05:22 AM
I don't care how many chickens people have, they HAVE to keep their pens cleaned out, I own property in Powder Springs that I rent out, the neighbors next door had chickens, and it smelled SO GROSS when it rained especially, that you couldn't go outside and then the GREEN FLIES-The reason is: The neighbor didn't keep the coop cleaned out, Look I was raised around chicken houses and there is a proper way of cleaning out the area of the "birds" and MOST people won't take the time to do that, and so then you have stench odor and Green Flies, just the way it is. As a child, my grandfather had chickens, he kept it clean and put "lime" out but most people are NOT going to do that, so yes I had to complain last year about the neighbor, the people renting my house kept calling and saying it stinks must be the septic tank, must be that, I knew exactly what it was, can't fool a country girl, and the neighbor just wanted to sell the eggs and NEVER cleaned out the pen.So, my question is this? They can have the chickens now, is the County going to enforce the health side of this equation? When it gets to stinking so bad and you can't grill out next door cause of the nasty, green flies, will they ticket them? If not, we're in for a HORRIBLE time, just great..
Melinda Paris March 01, 2013 at 05:27 AM
I agree with above post..Yes, we have coyotes, and they travel in circles, you might see them today, and then they are gone--no, they will be back, they travel in a circle always, but if YOU have something that interest them such as chickens, they will travel slower than usual in that circle, they will hang out til they get full of whatever it is that attracted them, then when they finish all the birds off, they will be leaving and traveling around in that circle, but they will be back...I don't care how many animals people have right next door to me, but they need to take care of those animals, and CLEAN UP AFTER THEM, I shouldn't have to smell what's next door, and I should be able to go outside without nasty bugs from whatever is next door either, that is my ONLY concern, but its a real concern, been there, done that. Good Luck to all.
Michael Jones March 01, 2013 at 10:25 PM
The coyotes and hawks are already here, eating small pets and animals now. Where have you been?
Ron McClellan March 04, 2013 at 08:33 AM
We have coyotes here too, Hear them at night and even had one walk down my back fence 2 years ago. Haven't lost one chicken to coyotes. And as for the assertion that "most folks " won't keep their coops clean . . .wrong. Most will, a few may not. Odor issues can be generally dealt with via general nuisance ordinances, as it is an undue infringement on the quiet enjoyment of ones premises. Further, green flies tend to prefer carrion and meat garbage over chicken waste.
Ron McClellan March 04, 2013 at 08:37 AM
"Jill Flamm said. "It does not differentiate as to why backyard chickens are any different than any other types of livestock with respect to food or companionship." Jim: Chicken = 8 pounds. Cow = 800+ pounds. Chicken: Can ride on your shoulder. Cow: Notsomuch. It ain't rocket science.
Melinda Paris March 04, 2013 at 04:10 PM
I've never ask what green flies preference is, HOWEVER, I grew up around chicken houses, and I know they cause flies, but I KNOW the neighbor didn't clean up, and it did cause horrible odor/Green flies. I can't make up facts, just the way it is, since we complained, on how many He could have, we haven't had the problem, but He did have about 30 in a coup no more than 2' from our property line, and IT WAS A major problem. Time will tell, I hope they keep it up, I don't care if they have 100 chickens, I was born and raised in the country, my brother has goats now-it is how people choose to keep them clean/ and in clean coops or they choose to be nasty, I've been around both kind, had horses growing up too, but we had a farm with about 30 acres, and that makes a difference too, putting too much "stuff" in too little space, and yea' it ain't rocket science, and shouldn't have to teach adults how to keep their animals in a closed up space, I so agree, just my point, but you always going to have that "one" that just want follow the rules, or better yet, has no rules.
Ron McClellan March 04, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Actually Chickens don't "cause" flies any more than, say, humans do. Less so, actually. Flies aren't a real problem with a reasonably maintained small flock. As for the neighbor cleaning up, that was a "human problem" not a chicken problem. And if the green flies were bad, the black-colored barn and house flies must have been absolutely horrendous, as they tend to be by far the biggest fly problem when chickens aren't well cared for. Then again barn flies rarely travel more than 100-150 feet from where they hatch for their entire life cycle. I'm not saying you're making anything up, but basing your opinions on "the exception" rather than "the rule," and your situation IS a minority in backyard keeping for most of us Backyard chickenkeepers. It's somewhat of a self-solving problem, as poor keeping practices tend to lead to poor quality chickens and other problems. I will agree, "backyard horses" aren't a great idea in most suburban residential areas, but lumping an 8 pound bird in the same category as a 900-1200 pound horse is kinda ludicrous, and MANY municipal officials and "anti-chicken folks try to do just that. As for the ones who don't keep chickens in a clean and sanitary manner, most municipalities have general health and nuisance ordinances that are sufficient to deal with the occasional irresponsible moron. We don't really need to worry about "teaching" folks, at least from a legislative standpoint. Most of us figure it out without government intervention.
Melinda Paris March 05, 2013 at 04:27 AM
I only gave facts of what has happened to me due to neighbors who had a FILTHY CHICKEN COOP: Fact, I have a young family renting a nice home from me sitting on a acre lot, they call me saying there is a terrible stench outside and can't figure out what it is, and can't take their young children out in the back yard without flies attacking them. I didn't know the neighbor had gotten chickens, and DON'T CARE that He did, EXCEPT, when I go over to check out the problem, I'm thinking I've got a septic tank problem, when I drove up in the driveway, I knew right away what the smell was coming from, grew up around that, I didn't even say what it was, cause I didn't want to loose good responsible renters. I soon learned my nose was correct and then I SAW THEM, TOO many for a small coop up against our property, after my gripe to the county, which He didn't have the 2 acres required, He actually moved them around back of his property, cleaned up the mess and we've been good ever since, no more complaints from the young couple, all is good. As I said before I was raised around 200' plus long chicken houses, horses, cows, etc. I'm NOT a anti-chicken person, but I am a anti-FILTHY animal condition person, I'm not comparing chicken poop to other kinds of poop, I'm just saying what can happen when people don't use good hygiene with their animals, as I said before Good Luck to all, I don't care who has what, just don't let the stink cause problems for the rest of us, then we're all good!
Melinda Paris March 05, 2013 at 04:41 AM
I understand you are one that wants the chickens in your backyard, I really don't have a problem with that at all. At the same time, with the go ahead, it makes me worry with the people that don't take care of the "droppings" WILL give them the go ahead to do whatever, no matter what the smell is, if you are one that cleans up and takes care of it, then my post is not to you, and I'm not gonna argue about the difference kinds of poop including human and what it brings, I only gave the facts of the problem I had with a neighbor in the last year that had chickens. My grandfather was a blind man, but tended to 1,000 of chickens in 3 chicken houses when I was small, and I was raised around them, I get it, really I do. But, when my renters complain because of a bad smell and other problems because of them, its irritating to say the least, my son-in-law's brother lives in Winder, the young couple is so excited to have 20 chickens and began gathering eggs and sharing w/their neighbors, but Winder made them get rid of them, even w/neighbors signatures begging to let them have the birds, they all had names, and were truly pets, and all the neighbors bought their young children over to collect the eggs, at Christmas they were saying how they were giving them away, having a few for dinner- they were so upset, I felt so bad for them. They have a acre lot, and kept it all nice and clean, so crazy people on both sides of the fence so to speak. I still add to all, GOOD LUCK!
Ron McClellan March 06, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Well Melissa, your first post on this topic clearly put an overall negative connotation to keeping backyard chickens, using your renters situation as an example. I do appreciate your reconsideration. It sounds like you had a valid complaint, it was dealt with in a reasonable fashion, and the offending neighbors straightened things up to everyones satisfaction. This was not adequately covered in the original post. On the contrary, you had said they "NEVER cleaned out the pen" and didn't mention at all that they had "cleaned up their act" so to speak. Bummer for your relatives in Winder. I had tried to help some folks in winder a year or two ago, but they kinda lost the resolve to fight for their right. Invite them to look up "Georgia Chickens" on Facebook. It's a page I started to help folks learn how to fight Municipal Officials who don't understand the concept of "liberty" and are not friendly to the idea of keeping backyard chickens. It is possible to get things changed, even if every official sitting on a commission or council is against the idea.
Greg T March 06, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Hey, move into a neighborhood with an HOA that doesn't allow chickens or other livestock. Problem solved. Why restrict all of Cobb from chickens? Those who want chickens and don't want chickens have the option of being able to live in Cobb either way.
Melinda Paris March 06, 2013 at 08:19 PM
I LIVE in a HOA community, and the rental property as been in my family for over 90 years, and its sets on 1 1/2 acres by it self. The property next door has been there about 10 years, but new people moved in, again I don't care who has chickens/horses/ cows/ now pigs can be a huge STINK, but when it becomes a stinky crap hole like it did last SUMMER, then I have a problem, my renters call and they have a problem, and NO ONE wants to live there, then its a problem. I haven't gone to a meeting, or have not said I didn't want people to have chickens, I just want the people next to my property keep it clean up and stink and fly free! Good Grief, is that too much to ask? I think not.
Ron McClellan March 06, 2013 at 09:15 PM
No it wasn't too much to ask. And it was cleaned up, by your own admission. We got that. But your first post, despite the reality that you've backpedaled a bit, was clearly indicting of Backyard chickens in general, though you have softened your position since the first post. Probably just best to say something like "Ya'll have a point there, I stand corrected," than trying to pretend you've been okay with the concept all along, Melissa.
Rodney Thrash March 06, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Thank you for participating in the discussion. We're going to close the comments on this story. Feel free to comment on other stories on any of the eight Cobb sites.

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