After much clucking, Lexington OKs backyard chickens

By Liza Aldridge

 

Lexington City Council passed a controversial ordinance Thursday night that allows residents to keep chickens in their yards.

 

After years of deliberation and public debate, the measure passed by a 5-1 vote.

Cosette Rhamey, 4, came dressed as a chicken to the city council meeting. (Ayo Ehindero photo)

“I do hope the ordinance is passed,” said Ann Huebner, who lives on Borden Road. “If we are denied an ordinance, we would be denying the people of this town a property right that is afforded to most of the country.”

The issue of chickens in Lexington has been controversial since 2012 when a similar proposal was defeated by council.

Council Member Marylin E. Alexander cast the only vote against the ordinance.

“I do want you to have your chickens,” she said. “But at the same time, I know there are a significant number of people in the community who do not want them. In other words, I feel like they didn’t sign up for that when they signed the bottom line for a mortgage.”

Young and old squared off at the meeting in Waddell Elementary School’s cafeteria.

Four-year-old Cosette Rhamey showed up in a chicken suit. Her dad lifted her up to the microphone.

“Chickens, please,” she said.

But Margo Kyle, who lives on Diamond Street, said she worries about the smell.

“Some people will keep things clean, some people will not,” she said. “I don’t care what you do, put down ammonia, whatever you want. That chicken poop is going to smell.”

Bea Johnson, who lives on Massie Street, agreed.

“The only chicken I like is fried chicken,” she said.

The ordinance allows residents to keep up to six hens if they pay a one-time $25 fee. They also must submit their plans for the coop. Roosters are prohibited.

A license may be revoked after three credible complaints.

“Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. You’re out!”  said George Pryde, a former council member who lives on West McDowell Street. “You’re out of the chicken game, and don’t even think about coming back for five years.”

Mayor Frank Friedman wrapped up the meeting with a pun: “We’ve been talking fowl most of the evening.”