Kent County Looks at Backyard Chicken and Rooster Restrictions - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Kent County Looks at Backyard Chicken and Rooster Restrictions

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DOVER, Del. -- It's not uncommon to see chickens walking outside Aaron Butcher's home in Willow Grove.

Butcher and his wife own a few pet chickens and use them as a source eggs, something he said doesn't bother neighbors or cause a nuisance.

"My neighbors, they enjoy them, just as well as we do. I don't know what the big issue is," he said.

Backyard chickens and roosters, as well as potential restrictions on the birds, were discussed Tuesday night by Kent County commissioners. There was no specific legislative proposal on the table, but members did seem to indicate they wanted to bar people from having backyard roosters as pets, unless they live on a farm.

"If people want to have chickens that's acceptable. But what we are trying to do is ban the roosters and keep them from affecting the quality of life in neighborhoods," said Commissioner Jim Hosfelt (R-District 2).

Kent County Planning Director Sarah Keifer said the department has received noise complaints about roosters over the years while some residents have at times raised objections related to pet chickens.

Hosfelt said he himself received two complaints from constituents about roosters since he took office in April.

Spencer Tharp, who lives next door to Butcher and owns chickens and a rooster, said a countywide ban on backyard roosters would be too intrusive to people who live in rural areas.

"I don't think it should happen because we like our roosters...to me they're worth money," he said.

The county does not have specific regulations on backyard chickens, though it does have some laws on chicken housing in some areas. Keifer said rooster noise complaints have been handled by code enforcement.

Keifer said while commissioners appear to have found consensus on roosters, there's disagreement on how backyard chicken restrictions would be enforced. Commissioners on Tuesday debated the merits of whether zoning or the size of someone's property should decide which restrictions would be in place.

Also complicating the matter is that much of the county is in some type of agricultural zoning, which Keifer said could make it difficult to make a blanket policy that's fair for everyone.

 But Butcher said he feels the county may be trying to legislate an issue that's only a problem in urban areas that don't apply to the rural part of the county.

"Once the county gets into it, it makes it tough on us," he said. "I mean, the ball rolls downhill on us when we're trying to survive."

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