Midtown Raleigh News

Hoping HOA will allow feathered friends

It’s cool to have chickens. I really want some egg-laying hens of my own, but our neighborhood HOA covenants specifically prohibit poultry.

The N.C. State Cooperative Extension publication “Keeping Garden Chickens in North Carolina” says that I should “gather a group of like-minded individuals to follow the proper channels to change those regulations so that garden hens are allowed.”

That was obviously written by someone who has never gone before an HOA board.

My only hope is that chicken keeping is becoming so commonplace that our HOA board will soon see the light.

Hundreds of local families, such as Don and Cindy Mason of North Raleigh, have a coop in their backyard.

For the Masons, it all started when Cindy Mason began trying to eliminate processed foods from their diet. She kept reading about the benefits of having chickens for fresh eggs. Her first thought was to buy her husband some chickens for Christmas, but then she thought better of that plan.

Then one day she was at Southern States and saw three little baby chicks for sale. At first she resisted. She even got in her car and started driving away, but then she thought of those three baby chicks and turned her car around. The “Golden Girls” – Dorothy, Blanche and Rose – had found a new home.

When she brought home the 3-day-old chicks, they lived in a spare bedroom under a heat lamp. As they grew, each bird developed a unique personality.

When it was time to move them outside, Mason bought a small chicken coop. Later, her husband built an enclosure for the coop to provide extra protection from predators.

When the chickens matured enough to start producing eggs, it quickly became obvious that Blanche was having trouble. Laying eggs was too much for her. When she passed away, Mason found a breeder to supply her with another hen so that Dorothy and Rose wouldn’t be lonely. She named the new chicken Rue after Rue McClanahan, the actress who portrayed Blanche in “The Golden Girls.”

But when Mason introduced Rue to the coop, Dorothy and Rose pecked at her mercilessly, so Mason went back to the breeder and bought a fourth hen to give Rue an ally. Sophia was from the same group as Rue, and they recognized each other immediately. Dorothy and Rose picked on the new hens at first to establish themselves at the top of the pecking order, but eventually they all learned to get along.

The four hens produce one to four eggs a day, but for Mason this project has become more than just a way to get fresh eggs. The chickens have become beloved family members that bring her a lot of joy.

“You learn to appreciate them because they work so hard to lay you an egg,” Mason said. “It’s like having a baby every day.”

Cynthia Deis, one of the organizers of Tour D’Coop, Raleigh’s annual backyard chicken coop tour, has found that many chicken keepers have similar bonding experiences. “The birds become pets,” she said.

And chickens are relatively easy to care for. “Chickens are about as much work as cats, but the difference is that a chicken gives you eggs,” Deis said.

Chicken keepers frequently become so enthusiastic that they want to spread the word. “That’s why we have the tour,” Deis said. “We want to be a resource for potential chicken keepers in the community.”

Maybe I will invite some members of my neighborhood HOA board to come on the tour this year so they can see for themselves that a backyard chicken coop can be a beautiful (and odorless) addition to the landscape as well as a source of joy, free fertilizer and nutritious eggs.