King George residents who live on half-acre lots can put a few chickens in their backyards, thanks to a change in the county ordinance.
People in residential districts, zoned R1 and R2, can have up to six chickens, provided their lots are at least 25,000 square feet, or slightly larger than half an acre.
But before residents start crowing too much about the zoning change, it does come with a few conditions. Roosters are not allowed; neither is the sale of eggs or meat. All enclosures and runs have to be in the back, at least 10 feet from the property line and at least 35 feet from any dwelling not owned by the chicken keepers.
Three residents who supported the fowl ordinance wondered if the county could increase the maximum number of chickens allowed. The Rev. James Shaw said larger flocks would help bigger families, and Jeremiah Hansen, who lives in Cleydael, proposed removing the limit altogether and letting chickens range free without fences, so they could forage for ticks and other insects.
The Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to stick with the limits suggested by the Community Development Department. The county can amend the ordinance in the future to allow more chickens on a graduated scale, based on the size of lots, as Caroline and Spotsylvania counties do, said At-Large Supervisor Ruby Brabo.
“We have a lot of interest in this. We need to just go ahead and move forward tonight,” she said.
Not everyone was in favor of a chicken in every pot, or at least on every residential lot of adequate size. Resident Carol Werle, who’s expressed some unusual opinions in the past, submitted a written statement.
“This county has gone mad trying to force communities back into the last century,” she stated. “First it was bees, now it’s chickens.”
Chickens already were allowed in 87 percent of King George, which is zoned agricultural. The supervisors had asked the Planning Commission in June to review the chicken regulations for residential areas based on the number of people interested in having them.
While that change was fairly simple, another one discussed on Tuesday may have county officials walking on eggshells.
Supervisor Richard Granger mentioned an ongoing problem he’s heard about from a resident, about a man who shoots his guns all hours of the night. The resident and deputies from the King George Sheriff’s Office have asked the man to stop, but the shooter says there’s no law keeping him from firing off a few rounds whenever he wants.
King George has a noise ordinance, but the sound generated by firearms is exempt from it.
“This is sort of a thorny issue,” County Attorney Eric Gregory said about the difficulty of drafting and enforcing noise ordinances because they can be so subjective. “We can’t just pass a law that says, ‘Knock it off.’ ”
He suggested amending the ordinance to restrict non-hunting activities between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., if the noise is above 65 decibels.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Bueche wondered if the amendment would make any difference—and if the person shooting was perhaps trying to ward off coyotes or foxes.
Granger said that probably wasn’t the case, given that deputies had received numerous complaints. Supervisor John Jenkins Jr., a policeman in Washington, said changing the ordinance at least would give deputies “the ability to do something.”
The rest of the board agreed and gave Gregory approval to draft the ordinance change. The supervisors then will schedule a public hearing on the matter.