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Ruling the roost: chickens in the city
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The backyard has traditionally been the stomping ground for beloved canines, but a new trend has chickens ruling the backyard roost.

For Public Defender Anthony Carter, his desire to know the source of his food drew him to raising chickens in his backyard on Flat Rock Trail in Covington's city limits.

"I like the idea of knowing exactly where the eggs come from, how they were handled, what the chickens ate and how the chickens were treated," Carter said. "The eggs are top quality and fresh and the chickens are interesting and easy to care for."

Carter has two chickens that produce approximately a dozen eggs a week, which is enough for his family of four. He got the chickens soon after the city amended its ordinance in early 2011 to allow backyard chickens.

While the chickens provide a constant supply of fresh, steroid-free eggs, Carter said the investment takes a while to pay for itself, as the cost of chickens and coop was about $400. However, the chicken feed is less than $10per month for his two chickens.

Carter said he believes the trend of having backyard chickens will continue to grow.

"There is a huge online community which offers advice, products and services related to the care of chickens in urban and suburban areas," Carter said. "Raising chickens for eggs is cheap, easy and fun. Harvesting your own eggs and having a small garden is healthy, relaxing and environmentally sound."

The Carters used to name their chickens and treat them like pets until a fox killed one of the family's favorites. Now the coop is more secure than ever and the chickens are nameless.

Those who oppose allowing residents to have chickens in their backyards are concerned about noise levels and odor.

"In suburban area, chicken coops are usually tucked away from sight and [are] unobtrusive," Carter said. "Hens don't make a lot of noise and there is very little odor. There are a lot more backyard coops out there than people realize."

Local laws for keeping chickens
Covington's ordinance allows city residents to keep chickens and certain other fowl only in Neighborhood Residential 1 and 2 zoning districts. One chicken is allowed for every 1,000 square feet, up to a maximum of 12birds. Fowl must be penned and the pens must be at lease 15 feet from all property lines. No male birds will be allowed; neither will guineas nor geese.

Newton County's animal ordinance allows chickens and other fowl to be kept in the city or county if they are not allowed to roam free. Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hoosen said previously she didn't see a problem with keeping chickens as long as they were in a pen that was kept clean.