Courtland chickens spared

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

COURTLAND—Richard Harris likes chickens.

He likes them fried, baked and barbecued. He enjoys their eggs scrambled, boiled, poached and over easy.

What Harris doesn’t care for is the fuss made over a doctor’s desire to keep chickens in a Courtland neighborhood that restricts livestock.

“I’ve heard a lot of clucking and ‘cock-a-doodle dooing’ over nothing,” he told Southampton County supervisors, who voted 7-0 during a Monday public hearing to allow Dr. Alan Edwards and his wife, Erin, to keep their chickens. Their eight guineas, however, will have to go.

“What I’m concerned about is every time a citizen turns around, everybody has his nose stuck (in his business),” Harris commented during the hearing. “I have a cat. I reckon if you dig deep enough, you might find an ordinance (against that). I’m speaking in favor of the chickens, and I’m thinking about getting some myself.”

The Edwardses live in Darden Mill Estates, which is a subdivision that does not allow farm animals, according to a county zoning ordinance.

However, exceptions are made with permission from supervisors through what’s known as a conditional-use permit. The ordinance requires that a chicken coop be 100 feet from neighboring property lines.

The county Planning Commission last month recommended that Alan Edwards, who happens to be the board’s chairman, be able to keep his chickens, with stipulations. Supervisors on Monday gave final approval with one additional stipulation — the chickens must be penned in.

The Edwardses, who began raising the chickens in May 2009 for their children, also cannot have more than 25 hens and two roosters. And the eggs cannot be sold.

The couple also gave up their right to retaliate against any neighborhood dogs that might harm their chickens.

“If a dog was attacking his children, he could take appropriate action,” said the family’s attorney, Jack Randall.

There was also some discussion about whether or not the Edwardses’ eight guineas are classified as chickens. The conversation was prompted by Jerusalem District Supervisor Anita Felts, who noticed guineas in photos of the chickens being passed around during the hearing.

“I think chickens and guineas are two different items,” said Boykins-Branchville District Supervisor Carl Faison. “I love chickens. I don’t love guineas. They make too much noise.”

“I’m not a chicken expert. Some are guineas,” Randall told supervisors.

Resident Barbara Story blurted out that guineas are good for protection.

“Guineas will let you know when something’s coming up in your yard,” Story told supervisors.

In the end, it was determined the guineas would have to go because the planning commission’s recommendation was for 25 chickens and two roosters.

“In the recommendation from the Planning Commission, they said we approved this based on chickens,” said Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown. “They didn’t talk about turkeys or geese. He’ll have to give the guineas away.”

Virginia Cutchin, who lives one-half mile from the Edwardses, opposed chickens in her upscale neighborhood. She also was concerned about setting a precedent for more chickens.

“I can hear his roosters. I wouldn’t want any rooster closer to my home,” Cutchin said. “A chicken house is not appropriate in an upscale neighborhood, no ducks, no geese, no guineas, no emus or other fowl. I don’t want our upscale neighborhood turned into a barnyard.”

She suggested limiting the number to 10 chickens, no roosters and a fenced-in area for the birds.