Chickens back on council’s plate

Samm Creech’s chickens, kept in her Dorchester County backyard, supply eggs for her baking and natural dog food biscuits.

ST. GEORGE — Two years ago, neighbors’ cackling over a backyard pen drove Dorchester County Council to set controversial acreage limits on who could own hens or ducks.

Those chickens are, uh, coming home to roost.

On Monday in St. George, Councilman David Chinnis is scheduled to ask council to repeal the law — essentially opening up the entire county to poultry.

“There are other nuisance ordinances that, if (hen-keeping) becomes a health problem or something else, can be enforced,” Chinnis said.

The current county law requires more than an acre to keep up to 10 fowl. In contrast, Charleston County requires 5 acres if the chickens have an agricultural use, and Berkeley County requires 2 acres. Exceptions are made case by case.

Although it happened before he was elected, Chinnis knows about the squabble — whether 1 acre was big enough — that was raised when the council approved the law. He is not daunted.

“My fellow council members have told me they’re for less restriction, not more,” he said.

Last time it was all about the hens “Ham” and “Eggs” and their four pen mates in Old Fort Estates, a countryside subdivision in Oakbrook. This time it’s about Feathers, Peaches Jr., Polka Dot, Precious and several other hens in Samm Creech’s backyard in the snug Greenhurst subdivision just outside Summerville.

Two years ago Creech brought home chicks for her Boy Scout sons. Now there are about a dozen hens that are part of a home business, providing eggs for natural dog biscuits. The pens are set against a fence at the back of the yard and the edge of woods.

A neighbor recently complained, and a codes officer left Creech a citation saying the fowl had run afoul of zoning laws: Her 1/3-acre lot didn’t meet the more-than-an-acre requirement.

“I can understand your neighbors not wanting you to have a rooster or 50 chickens in your backyard,” Creech said. “But you can hear the birds louder than you can hear my hens.”

She asked Chinnis for help.

Council Chairman Larry Hargett, who was on the council for the first fight, chuckled at the thought of another round.

“I want to see what the issue is,” he said. “If it’s something the neighborhood wants, I’m in. If it’s just one person, I’m not so sure.”

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