One year ago this week I was given a Notice of Violation by the Cobb County Code Enforcement for having a dozen hens in my backyard. In Cobb County, you must have at least two acres of land to own poultry; I have only a half-acre. The neighbor that lives behind me in a different neighborhood was looking over my six foot privacy fence and saw my enclosed chicken coop and hens. She had unsubstantiated fears that the poultry would ruin her property value and notified her County Commissioner.
In the year since, I have worked hard to change the 40-year-old law that essentially bans poultry in Cobb County. I researched the topic, compiled statistics and presented this to the Board of Commissioners. The Board unanimously rejected the facts with statements like: “The law has been here for 40 years. It’s a good law,” and “It would not be fair to the people who moved here knowing about that law,” and “If you want fresh eggs, buy them at the store like everyone else.”
I worked at a State level to get House Bill 853, the Right to Grow Act, passed into law. It was sponsored by a Cobb County Representative, and would have banned cities and counties from prohibiting citizens from growing their own food. The Bill passed the Agricultural Committee, and enjoyed the support of 3 out of 4 Representatives surveyed. It was killed by the Chairman of the Rules Committee after strong lobbying by the Cobb Board of Commissioners and the Georgia Municipal Association.
Once again, I turn my efforts to the Board of Commissioners with the hopes that they will do the right thing and lift this unwarranted ban on poultry. The majority of the cities and counties around Cobb allow their citizens to own poultry on lots smaller than two acres, including Atlanta, Roswell, Woodstock, and Smyrna. The current laws that regulate other pets like cats and dogs would regulate poultry with no changes. The GA Realtor’s Association states that pet poultry cannot reduce property values.
In the past year, I have spoken to thousands of people about poultry in Cobb County. Most of the people are shocked to learn that while there are NO limits on the number of cats and dogs, one must own two acres to own a duck or a chicken. Many said that they would rather have chickens than the barking dogs that they currently have. They feel that the government should not be restricting our personal property rights. They have said that although their HOA prevents them from owning poultry, those without HOA bans should be able to own them. I have received e-mails from people concerned about their birds should they move to Cobb County.
Thru the Backyard Chickens Alliance (BCA), I have started a petition drive to show the BOC that the everyday people of Cobb think that poultry should have the same rights as other pets. While many people want change, they do not know what they can do; this petition allows their voice to be heard. Petitions are available at local Cobb business’s listed at the BCA website, www.backyardchix.org.