Jax residents fight for right to keep chickens

Proposed ordinance would allow up to 4 hens in pens at single-family homes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The fight over the right to keep chickens is still a hot topic in Duval County, and one that could change soon.

The city has a proposed ordinance that would allow more people to keep chickens and hens in their yard, but not all Jacksonville resident's agree that keeping chickens on a small property is the best thing to do.

At home in their pen, the hens seem harmless, but Dale Parsons said the hens that used to live in his neighbor's backyard made patio conversations like these impossible.

"They stink to high heaven," said Parsons. "You get the wind blowing in the wrong direction, coming across there and through the house, you'd know it real quick."

Parsons said his neighbors hens roamed freely in their backyard until the city forced them out. Under a new proposed ordinance, any single family home could have up to four hens, and a shelter must be provided for them. 

It would be against the law for the chickens to run around freely. Parsons said he grew up on a farm, and taking care of the hens is not easy. 

Lauren Trad started the push for new city laws after she had to get rid of the hens in her yard.

"I wouldn't advise anyone to go out and get hens on a whim," said Trad.

Trad now cares for the hens on her family's property and believes concerns about smell, noise and illness depends on how people treat the hens.

"I don't think you can ever completely avoid that, but most people who do this, these are part of their family, they are going to care for this animal the same way they're going to care for their dogs or cats," said Trad.

Right now, about a third of the land in Duval County is zoned to allow chickens, but Trad said most people do not live in that land, which is rural residential and agricultural land. Parsons believes that's where coops belong.

"If you've got an acre or two or more fine, have all the chickens that you want. But in residential like this no, don't do it," said Parsons.