FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Those expecting the county to pass an ordinance allowing backyard poultry on residential lots counted their chickens before they hatched.

At its Dec. 3 meeting, the Forsyth County Commission tabled action on the ordinance for a second time to continue hashing out the details.

Concerns over language related to setbacks spurred the delay in taking a vote. As proposed, a chicken coop could be constructed up to 15 feet from a home’s rear property line, up to 20 feet from side lines and up to 50 feet from any residential structures on neighboring properties.

Some commissioners said those parameters were too close for comfort.

Commission Chair Laura Semanson said the property line setbacks were “nowhere near appropriate,” and those wishing to keep chickens need to have adequate land to do so.

Semanson and Commissioner Todd Levent brought up the notion that the setbacks on each property could serve as the minimum distance from a property line a coop could be constructed. After discussion, the board directed County Attorney Ken Jarrard to consider that language and bring it back before the board. Commissioners were expected to resume discussion of the matter at their Dec. 8 work session.

The proposed setback requirements were among several changes to the original draft ordinance since it was proposed before the board last month.

Under the updated proposal, the minimum residential lot size to house chickens is one-half acre, with up to eight chickens permitted per lot. Another addition was the requirement that chickens be kept in an enclosure, such as an open-bottomed cage called a chicken tractor, when the birds are outside of the coop.

When people are not around, chickens must be kept in a coop.

Another provision requires that each chicken have at least 5 square feet of floorspace in a chicken house with the necessity for a perch.

Slaughtering hens on site is prohibited.

Other requirements include that feed and medications be kept in closed containers and the area be kept in a sanitary condition. Roosters or any “crowing” chickens are not allowed, only gallus gallus domesticus.

Though the regulation will give free reign to keep chickens on homes that fit the criteria, homeowners associations will have the final say. County Attorney Ken Jarrard said an HOA covenant will supersede the county’s permittance of keeping backyard chickens.

No residents spoke outwardly in opposition to the regulations, and several shared their approval.

Amy Bartholomew, a veterinarian who has assisted with updating the draft, said that many people in the county already keep chickens on residential properties, but because of their quiet nature, their neighbors are none-the-wiser.

Planning & Community Development Director Tom Brown said adopting the regulations would assist enforcement of those keeping backyard chickens because it creates a uniform set of requirements.

In other action at the meeting, the board tabled a vote on rewrites to the county’s tree ordinance, and soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance.

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