Yes!… to Urban Hens in Durham.











All of us at H&B (even Bella) are united in our support for allowing hens—not roosters mind you, just hens—in backyards. Fresh local eggs are the way to go. If we want to raise hens, shouldn’t we be allowed to do so? This is a free country, yes? 

Durham’s city council is taking this measure up Monday, Feb 2. If you want to lend your support please consider attending. Bonus points if you dress up as a chicken and shake your tail feathers (rumor has it the San Diego Chicken mascot may be in attendance lending some West Coast support).

Can’t make it? Consider calling or writing your city council to ensure they make the right call on the vote.

Below is detailed information from Chris Crochietere (this is a letter she sent to her neighborhood listserv), a friend who is one of the folks leading the charge to allow this…

Some of you know that Frank and I have been working with a group that’s trying to get an ordinance passed that would allow us to raise a small number of hens in our backyards (something that every other city in the state allows already!). 

Our group–Durham HENS (Healthy Eggs in Neighborhoods Soon)–evolved out of efforts by the community garden group SEEDs ( We have been researching how this is working in other cities for several months and working with the planning department in drafting an ordinance that will honor our desire to grow fresh, truly local hens and eggs without any adverse effect on our neighbors.

The city council will hold a hearing on Monday, Feb. 2nd (7 pm at City Hall) to hear from citizens and will likely take a vote that night, up or down on the issue. We would love for interested people to come and speak or at least be counted. [FYI: We are selling Durham HENS t-shirts at Barnes Supply on 9th St. and at SEEDs, so I hope you’ll pick one up and wear it at the hearing!]

And honestly, I feel kinda weird saying this, but, among other things, Howard Clement’s support for this ordinance is contingent on him seeing a lot of turnout by African-American homeowners. We have active members of our group who fit that profile and we reached out months ago to neighborhoods that fit that demographic, but apparently we haven’t done well enough to suit Council member Clement. If you want to better understand his position, I guess you could ask him at the hearing or send him an email at city hall.  EDITORIAL COMMENT FROM DAVE: Really why is this long-winded, really long-winded, do-nothing guy still on our city council?! okay, back to the program.

We feel that allowing backyard hens has broad appeal and that this ordinance will protect the interests of neighbors who don’t want hens themselves. Below are a few facts that may be of interest:

1) One of the first things we did was to contact the Animal Control offices of the NC cities that already allow backyard hens: Raleigh, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte. Across the board we heard the same basic story–2 or 3 complaints a month, maybe, NONE of which were about noise, predators, disease, or smell (the few complaints were about loose hens). Note: Greensboro and Winston-Salem are Durham’s demographic twins FWIW. We also met with Durham’s Animal Control staff and their story closely resembled those of the other cities–a very small number of complaints about loose chickens.

2) Despite the low impact of backard hens, Durham’s proposed ordinance is the strictest one in the state, if not the nation. Last fall the Joint City County Planning Committee unanimously voted to have the planning staff draft this ordinance. A few months later the Durham Planning Commision reviewed the ordinance and supported it with a 10-4 vote. [I have attached the ordinance, if you’d like to read it. If you get your listserv emails via the digest and can’t receive attachments, just let me know and I’ll send it to you privately.]

3) The ordinance prohibits roosters to eliminate noise.

4) It demands that coops and pens be inspected for good construction (to preclude runaway hens and predation by other critters) by the inspections department.

5) Pens and coops must be in the backyard at least 15′ away from a property line to further dampen any possible noise or smell issues that might affect neighbors. EDITORIAL COMMENT: this is totally bogus, what if I want to raise hens as a shared responsibility activity with my next door neighbor and we want to build the coop on our shared property line?

6) Any complaints about noise, smell or loose hens will subject the violator to fines or the loss of their permit.

7) We understand that people have concerns about disease, but there is no factual basis for this concern. Avian flu (or bird flu) has never occurred in this country and is unlikely to occur for a variety of reasons too long to go into here. One of the first people we contacted as part of our research was the Durham Public Health Director Brian Letourneau, who did not mince words in saying that he had no health concerns about backyard hens. There recently has been news about salmonella in grocery store products and there is a remote possibility of picking up salmonella from hens or chicks (as well as other types of legally permitted pets) but handwashing is an adequate preventative for salmonella. The Public Health Department has also sent a memo noting those details and is not opposed to backyard hens.

8) Over the past year, we have floated a petition supporting backyard hens in Durham and over 1500 citizens have signed it. Some of us also met with INC earlier in 2008 to inform neighorhoods of our goals and to elicit concerns, and we feel we generally received a positive response, though we did not at the time ask for a resolution of support.

9) We strongly support notifying neighbors of an intent to keep backyard hens, but we also strongly oppose the idea, recently floated, of arbitrarily giving veto power to a neighbor. This seems like an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, esp. given the minimal impact of hens and also (we know that no one intends this) empowers people who may act on their prejudices to veto a neighbor’s hens merely on racial or other unfounded prejudice.

So what it comes down to is that we have the strictest ordinance in the state (even though problems in other NC cities have been miniscule), we have no threat to public health, nor do we have a drain on local enforcement services.

We do have broad support from citizens–homeowners and renters– across the city and county, we have the support of the city manager, the planning director, and the planning commission. We also want your support at the INC meeting and at the city council’s public hearing on Feb. 2nd. (what better way to celebrate Groundhog Day? :-)

If anyone wants to get further involved with Durham HENS, our next meeting is at SEEDS on Wednesday, 6 pm at the SEEDS office, 906 Gilbert Street.


One Response to “Yes!… to Urban Hens in Durham.”

  1. Paul Frederick Watuwa Says:

    I am a very interested about your information as regards to local hen and am happy for your efforts to update and imparting the knowledge. I want you to list me for your future inovations, workshops and even funding contacts

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