Chickens win a place in Durham rules

But coop keepers can't sell the eggs

Staff WriterFebruary 17, 2009 

— Chickens crossed into the city limits Monday night.

"What it really comes down to is a question of freedom, and that's what Durham is about. Live and let live," said Durham city councilman Eugene Brown.

By a vote of 7 to 0, the council approved an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance to allow residents to keep up to 10 hens -- no roosters -- in their yards. The city joins Charlotte, Raleigh, New York City and Seattle in a nationwide fashion for "urban chickens."

The vote is the culmination of a saga that has occupied the council for two months and Durham HENS -- "Healthy Egg Neighborhood Supporters" -- for a year.

Prospective chicken owners have to get a permit to keep chickens, and a second permit to build their coops and pens. The amendment also spells out specifications for those facilities.

The amendment stipulates:

* Backyard chickens, their eggs and their waste may be kept for personal use only -- no sales;

* Chickens may be slaughtered, as long as the dispatching "is conducted in a humane and sanitary manner" and out of public view;

* Stored chicken droppings have to be kept in waterproof containers;

* No more than two cubic feet of chicken droppings may be kept for use as unprocessed fertilizer; any more than that has to be discarded or composted.

The council overrode objections to the amendment by Lavonia Allison, president of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, and former city councilwoman Jackie Wagstaff.

"I'm not against chickens," Allison said, "but I'm not very interested in us retrogressing. ... We are a municipality."

But she congratulated the chicken supporters, about 60 of whom were on hand for the vote and broke into applause when the result was announced.

Wagstaff said enforcing the chicken rules would be "added work to the already stressed city staff."

She added: "My concern is there are going to be some rule breakers and how are you going to monitor that?"

The chicken supporters didn't get everything they wanted. The council kept the requirement for neighbors' approval and for extending fencing at least 12 inches underground.

jwise@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2004

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