Despite pressure from residents, Hanahan City Council chickened out on an ordinance that would allow backyard hens.
The council voted the proposal down 4-1 on Tuesday. Spearheaded by an organization called Hens For Hanahan, the group tried to join other neighboring cities that allow residents to raise chickens on their properties. The issue comes at a time when more American households are embracing sustainability and building coops at their homes.
Danielle Woodford, co-founder of Hens For Hanahan, said the movement started when she was moving from Park Circle to Hanahan.
While she was waiting for housing arrangements, her friend Kelly Atkinson watched her chickens in her Hanahan backyard. Her friend was cited by police when a neighbor complained, and Woodford had to find a home for the chickens in Summerville.
Woodford rallied support for the cause and had more than 600 Hanahan residents sign petitions online and at local businesses to support a new ordinance.
Hanahan ordinances do not allow residents to keep "horses, mules, cow, gannet, swine, fowl, goat or cattle." The revision provided by Hens For Hanahan would require residents to get a $20 permit and written permission from their neighbors to house hens. The proposed ordinance would have banned roosters.
Woodford was optimistic, but said she didn't want to count her chickens before they hatched. City Council shut it down.
"It was terrible," Woodford said. "They saw it as a want, not a need."
The lone vote in favor of the ordinance change was Mayor Christie Rainwater. She said her first encounter with domestic chickens was at her aunt and uncle's home in suburban Boston.
"I emailed mayors across the state of South Carolina," Rainwater said. "I wanted to do research on what was best for our residents."
Some nearby municipalities — including Charleston, North Charleston and Summerville — allow backyard chickens, Rainwater said.
Concerns from Hanahan council members and critics included salmonella, noise and animal waste, Woodford said.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control announced a salmonella outbreak relating to backyard chickens. At least 52 people were infected with strains of salmonella in 21 states. South Carolina was not on the list.
Since 2000, 76 salmonella outbreaks have been linked to backyard poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 5,000 people have become sick as a result of backyard fowl and seven people have died.
Woodford said there's a better chance of getting salmonella from a pet turtle and that chickens are less noisy and produce less waste than a dog. She also argued that chickens can help get rid of pests in backyard gardens.
A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzed urban chicken ownership in four cities: Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Denver. While the study concluded that at least 1 percent of all households raised chickens, the USDA saw that 4 percent of homes without chickens planned to have them within at least the next five years.
Since the measure was shot down this week, Rainwater said it will have to be one full year before the proposed ordinance can be brought to council again.
In that time, Woodford hopes people will stop crying foul on backyard chicken-owners.
"It's not affecting everybody," Woodford said. "We're not turning (Hanahan) into a petting zoo."