FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County officials are crafting legislation that could pave the way for homeowners to legally keep chickens in their backyards. County commissioners discussed the matter at a Nov. 5 meeting and will continue talks next month.

The county has drafted proposed updates to its codes that would allow for keeping backyard chickens, but Thursday’s meeting proved there is still much work to do on crafting specific regulations.

As proposed, chickens would be permitted on residential lots of 18,500 square feet or larger. Only one chicken would be allowed per 3,000 square feet of property, meaning a maximum of 14 chickens could be kept on a 1-acre property.

Roosters and other crowing chickens are prohibited under the proposed regulations.

A chicken coop or other means of housing the animals could not be closer to the front property line than a home or its roof. Such a structure could not be within five feet of the home or closer than 30 feet to any property line. A permit to construct a coop would not be required.

The draft outlines that chickens must be kept in a coop or other structure when unattended and must be contained within a fence at least 4-feet tall when outside of the coop.

The proposal also includes measures to address cleanliness and sanitary issues.

Forsyth staff compiled the potential codes using the regulations of Cherokee County, Gwinnett County and the cities of Milton, Atlanta and Alpharetta as templates.

Two residents spoke in favor of the regulations, including a veterinarian who gave board members several additional suggestions. She agreed to work with county staff on helping craft specific language for an ordinance.

One resident spoke against the proposal citing concerns of homeowners associations and the density of certain neighborhoods. She said while density may not be as much of an issue in the northern portions of the county, there is typically more residential density in south Forsyth neighborhoods, and neighbors may not want to live so close to a coop. She also said communities with HOAs could be strained by having to redesign their covenants if they wanted to ban backyard chickens.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said an HOA covenant could still ban backyard chickens even if officials vote to approve the measure. 

The board agreed to allow staff to retune the regulations and bring an updated draft back before commissioners in December.

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