Backyard chickens will soon be flocking to Dunwoody.
The City Council voted 6-1 at its May 22 meeting to allow residents to raise chickens at their homes, bringing the city in line with other surrounding municipalities.
Councilmember Lynn Deutsch, who championed the idea to approve chickens, said before the vote that residents wanting the city to allow residents to keep chickens at home have approached her regularly over the past three years.
Local Girl Scouts have also been leading the charge to legalize backyard chickens in Dunwoody and several have taken their “pro-chicken” stance straight to the city leaders, speaking during public comment period at council and Planning Commission meetings.
Girl Scouts Lauren Fitzgerald and Chloe Fenster, both 13 and eighth graders at Peachtree Charter Middle School, are hoping to earn their Silver Award through their work to drum up “pro-chicken” support from residents.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t some opposition.
Cheryl Summers blasted the idea to OK chickens in the city, saying the idea was a “fad.”
“[Chickens] are not a pet like a cat or dog,” she said.
The girls interested in chickens will eventually lose interest, Summers said, and the city will be “stuck with an ordinance … passed because somebody had a whim.”
“That’s not what we’re about,” Summers told the council.
Brianna Harris, one of the young girls to speak in favor of chickens, argued that the ability for residents to keep chickens would be a “helpful and engaging addition to Dunwoody.”
The new ordinance sweeps aside a 2010 vote where council voted 4-3 to not allow backyard chickens. The vote seven years ago was controversial and people packed City Hall to watch what the council would do.
This year, though, there were just a few people talking chicken at City Hall, most in favor.
Mayor Denis Shortal cast the lone no vote; he also voted in 2010 to keep chickens out.
“I think we’re talking about a quality of life issue,” Shortal said. Shortal was raised on a farm and said his family had many chickens and they were smelly and dirty.
“This is really not something I think we need in our city,” he said.
Deutsch said there was enough interest from many residents asking her to bring the issue back up. She said people who want to raise chickens and keep chickens will be undertaking a huge responsibility and won’t do so lightly.
“What brought it front and center to me was a family with a child with allergies who wanted to raise chickens for their own eggs,” Deutsch said.
“This is not a hobby to undertake lightly. I think we’ll be surprised how few families jump into this,” she said.
Councilmember Jim Riticher said he supported the measure after he spoke with an avian veterinarian who told him there was no reason to not allow chickens with constraints.
“I see barking dogs as a bigger issue,” he said.
Councilmember John Heneghan was on the City Council in 2010 and at that time voted in favor. He voted again in favor on May 22.
Councilmember Terry Nall noted that the city was not overrun with requests from residents wanting backyard chickens, but said “the tide has turned” it was time to support the ordinance while ensuring neighbors were not harmed.
And Councilmember Doug Thompson said he remember how angry many residents were in 2010 when the council voted down legalizing chickens and how two friends bought chickens in defiance of the city at the time. Both told him it was too hard to raise chickens and said they would never do so again.
“To me this is just a funny issue,” he said.
The ordinance limits the number of chickens – just hens, no roosters – to six per home. Those wanting chickens must first submit design plans to the city’s Community Development Department for approval. Chickens are not allowed to be free range and rather must be kept in a coop and provided with runs. The ordinance prohibits slaughtering chickens at residents’ homes.