Chicken Man plucked of pets by Roswell City Council

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ROSWELL – Dec. 14 was a bad night for Andrew Wordes, dubbed the Chicken Man.

First he lost his year-long fight to keep some 200 chickens and other fowl as pets. Then he spent the night in the Roswell jail.

Roswell’s City Council passed a poultry ordinance 4-2 (Lori Henry and Betty Price dissenting) severely limiting the number of poultry citizens could keep in residential areas. No roosters can be kept at all.

Wordes’ troubles did not end there. Apparently having just left the council meeting, he was stopped at 10:34 p.m. by Roswell police on a traffic violation. When it was discovered he was driving on a suspended or revoked license, he was taken to jail.

At press time the next morning, Wordes had not bonded out.

As part of the ordinance, lots of up to one-third of an acre can have no fowl at all.

Lots between one-third acre and 1 acre can have six birds. Lots of more than 1 acre can have 12 per acre to a maximum of 36 chickens. Lots zoned Agricultural or Estates (E-1, 2 acres or more) are exempted. Wordes lives on a 1-acre lot.

Mayor Jere Wood, who said he would not have supported the ordinance as passed if his tie-breaker vote had been called for, said he did not think the ordinance was consistent.

“You have to keep chickens 50 feet from the property line, but a dog can be anywhere in the yard,” he said.

After the meeting, Wordes told reporters that he would move from Roswell rather than give up his pet chickens, quail and other birds.

“They are like family to me. I can’t give up my family,” he said.

He went on to say the fight to keep his chickens has cost him a year of strife as well as his job.

He was cited by code enforcement last March for illegally keeping chickens in his backyard. However, with Cobb attorney and former Gov. Roy Barnes arguing his case, Municipal Court Judge Maurice Hilliard threw out the city’s case against him in May. The story, however, picked up national press coverage from CNN and the Associated Press.

“This is really a tempest in a teapot,” said Barnes last spring outside the courtroom. “Where is the common sense in all of this? There is no public nuisance, none of his neighbors have complained. Indeed, some of them are here in support of Mr. Wordes.”

It has taken the intervening seven months for City Council to come up with a law that would remove any cloudiness of the former ordinance, spelling out where chickens would be allowed and how many.

In other council action, Sharpshooters, a proposed indoor shooting range, was approved by council to operate on Atlanta Highway (Ga. 9), just north of Carl Black automotive dealership.

“It will be the finest indoor range in the state,” said Wood. “Not only will it be a great facility for the public, but it will provide Roswell police officers and those from surrounding areas an opportunity to train without traveling too far.”