Neighbors divided over chickens as pets in urban areas

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Chickens as pets have become a hot topic in urban parts of Richmond, because there are ordinances people must follow.  Some people say the law is senseless and they want to keep the pets.

Standing side by side in The Fan neighborhood, homes are so close neighbors can easily see into each other's backyards.

For some people they're spotting a problem.

"There are lots of chickens throughout the city. You just don't know they are there," said Richard Hammack who owns chickens.

The Hammack family has three hens. The animals have been a part of their family for six months.

"They don't smell. They're clean. They don't make noise," he said.

The Hammacks eat the eggs and will even give it away to neighbors.

"They're actually really nice and they lay eggs so you don't have to buy any eggs," says Adriana Hammack, Richard's daughter.

They may have to get rid of the hens after a notice of complaint from the city appeared on the door. It said a city code says no fowl can be kept in a place less than 50,000 square feet.

"I didn't really believe it was happening," Adriana said. "I mean I couldn't imagine who would have told the city that we had chickens."

Backyard chickens are not illegal in the city, but you have to follow strict guidelines.

The city ordinance says that no chicken can be within 500 feet of a building. The Hammack's yard measures about 40 feet, but they say the chickens are happy and healthy.

Neighbors express their opinions.

"I think it's good for the idea of back to the earth, taking care of your body and how you eat," says Jesse Gallop who lives in The Fan. He says an ordinance should make sure the animals are kept in a clean and safe environment.

"I don't like that they have the chickens and the reason I don't like that is because of the disease the chicken's poop carries," said Chuck Shepherd who lives near the Hammacks. "It's 100 feet from my back door, I don't like it."

The Hammacks say they will follow the law.

"It seems really senseless that something as innocent as a chicken could be illegal in Richmond," said Richard.

The mayor's Food Policy Task Force is still gathering the community's opinion. A change in the ordinance  would have to be voted on by the City Council.

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