Dick Yarbrough: Cobb chicken fighters get help from ... a good egg
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
February 11, 2012 12:00 AM | 2229 views | 15 15 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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Where could there be a more appropriate location for a chicken fight than in the land of the Big Chicken? You may recall that this past November I told you about Joseph Pond’s efforts to keep some chickens on his east Cobb property. Cobb County requires at least two acres for chickens and Pond has a little less than half an acre.

Pond is a licensed master plumber by trade and not wise in the ways of dealing with government bureaucracy. He had taken the county zoning board to court over its refusal to grant his request to allow chickens on his property. That is when the system bound and gagged him and his chicks in red tape. The Cobb Zoning Appeals Board said Mr. Pond hadn’t served it with legal notice that he had appealed its decision to Superior Court and hadn’t paid the required fees and that the case should be dismissed.

Pond said he thought the court clerk’s office was supposed to make sure the paperwork was done properly. Cobb Superior Court Judge Juanita Stedman told him, “You can’t rely on the clerk’s office.” Fair enough. Taxpayers ought to know the intricacies of government bureaucracy. After all, what else do they have to do?

At the same time, Leigh Savage, of Powder Springs, was trying to raise some chickens for the eggs. Ms. Savage is a breast cancer survivor and her doctor recommended fresh eggs, not the store-bought variety, as an important addition to her diet. She found herself suddenly facing the same bureaucratic obstacles as Mr. Pond but with one big difference. She had a neighbor a couple of doors away by the name of Rep. Earl Ehrhart, (R-Powder Springs) a long-time Republican power in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Ehrhart told Ms. Savage he couldn’t do anything about county ordinances but he “might be of some assistance” at the state level. He promptly introduced H.B. 853, with his colleagues Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) chairman of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee; Terry England (R-Auburn), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), chairman of the House Transportation Committee; Tony McBrayer (R-Tifton) a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and even a Democrat, Karla Drenner, (D-Avondale Estates).

The little guys had just found a big voice.

The bill is titled the Right to Grow Act. It declares that no local government or local government authority shall prohibit the growing of food crops, rabbits or chickens on private residential property so long as such foods are used for human consumption by the occupant and not for commercial purposes. Ehrhart says the issue is about using common sense and exercising local freedom.

H.B. 853 passed the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and is scheduled to go before the Rules Committee on Wednesday with a couple of changes. Roosters were dropped out and honey bees were added. I understand roosters were a little miffed at what they feel is gross discrimination. If any roosters are reading this, I would suggest that if you could learn to keep your mouths shut when the sun comes up, you might have more support. It’s your own fault.

As for the honey bees, I want them to know that I have always been on their side. I have learned the hard way to never upset honey bees.

The biggest obstacle facing the bill is opposition from the Georgia Municipal Association and homeowner association groups. Ehrhart is particularly critical of the GMA spending taxpayer money to lobby against the wishes of local taxpayers. “It is quite a sight to see their silk-stocking lawyers standing behind the ropes at the Capitol trying to grab legislators to talk about chickens. I can just hear them crying ‘The Sky is Falling.’” he chuckles.

As for the homeowner associations, my Favorite Quote Machine says they remind him of Mrs. Kravitz, the nosy neighbor on “Bewitched.” That is Earl Ehrhart at his best. Who else would remember Gladys Kravitz, a minor character on a TV show that hasn’t been around for four decades, to describe his opponents? That line beats by a mile the day he referred to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver.” This man is an answer to a columnist’s prayers.

Ehrhart says it is too early in the process to predict the ultimate fate of the bill. There is, after all, a lot going on under the Gold Dome these days. But whether it passes or not, Leigh Savage and Joseph Pond found somebody with some clout to listen their plight when the bureaucrats would not. And they couldn’t have picked a better advocate than Earl Ehrhart. He’s a good egg.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
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Joseph Pond
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February 12, 2012
If you read the legislation, it clearly says that local nuisance laws are not affected. This would certainly preclude your unkind mark concerning a minority raising birds in their front yard. The law also does not affect those that choose to live in neighborhoods with HOAs.
Joseph Pond
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February 11, 2012
The city of Atlanta allows twenty five chickens and two goats. Buckhead seems to be doing just fine. Smyrna allows chickens as well. I applaud Rep Ehrhart for trying to return the Rights to the people, where they belong. It is a shame that the State should have to pass a law that prohibits cities and counties from banning individuals the Right to grow their own food on their own property, especially when one out of five people in Georgia are on food stamps. Things are seriously wrong when appearances outweigh practicality.
I Say
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February 11, 2012
I agree with the idea behind Right to Grow Act, but it would be better if it were implemented at the county level.
Jesse James
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February 11, 2012
Note to Earl,

I do not want my neighbors raising chickens and I do not want the General assembly amending zoning and nuisance laws.

Oh and what kind of Doctor gave the poor woman advice regarding home grown eggs?

This is all cute stuff until the guano hits the fan and the newcomers from South of the Border are allowed to raise chickens in the front yard.

No Thanks!
No Dogs
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February 12, 2012
I don't want my neighbors to have 10 stinky, barking dogs. I don't want my neighbors smoldering a brush fire, on the first fresh spring day. I don't want my neighbors teenage son racing up and down the street on a loud dirt bike, when I just had a new baby trying to sleep. These things happen in neighborhoods. We put up with all kinds of nuisances in our neighborhood, without complaining. We choose to live in a neighborhood. So we try to get along.

Chickens don't bother the neighbors, that is a fact. We are not asking to have 20,000 chickens. A small flock is quiet and clean. They go about their business, eating weeds, and bugs, yes fleas and ticks. They are fastidious groomers, they help clean up kitchen waste, one chicken can consume 7 lbs a week.

The municipalities have stepped over the line. They have taken a basic right away from us.
Judy Gex
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February 12, 2012
It should tell you something that a doctor recommended fresh eggs not from battery chickens who have been fed adulterated foods. The eggs in stores have less nutritional value than fresh eggs from the backyard.From Mother Earth News:

...eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol

• 1⁄4 less saturated fat

• 2⁄3 more vitamin A

• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

• 3 times more vitamin E

• 7 times more beta carotene

Preventing someone from responsibly owning and raising chickens because you *think* there might be a problem with a few is as stupid as saying that no one can own a dog because someone's dog is going to bite someone.

Judy Gex
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February 12, 2012
There is a reason why the doctor recommended fresh eggs from home raised chickens. They are much more nutritious than eggs found in grocery stores from battery hens. From Mother Earth News:

eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol

• 1⁄4 less saturated fat

• 2⁄3 more vitamin A

• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

• 3 times more vitamin E

• 7 times more beta carotene

Saying that no one should be able to keep chickens because someone is worried a few might not be responsible is as ridiculous as saying that no one should own a dog because some owners will let theirs run loose risking the potential that they will bite someone.

People who are against chickens as backyard pets are likely completely unfamiliar with them or have never seen a small flock at home in someone's backyard. They do not smell, they eat flies, not attract them, and they eat other insects. They are friendly and personable and are less noisy than the average dog.

Kristin Picken
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February 11, 2012
I was one of many people in Cobb county that went to the board of commission meetings and town hall meetings to speak with the commissioners on this very subject. They are not interested in being worked with. They said they support the law as is and are not interested in changing it.
No Sale
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February 11, 2012
It's hard enough to sell a home ever since Republicans tanked the economy, now they want assure that you will never be able to sell it with chicken farms next door. I wish Mr. Ehrhart and his tea party friends would just go away. They are ruining what was a great state.
Judy Gex
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February 12, 2012
There is quite a vast difference between a "chicken farm" and a homeowner keeping 4-6 hens as pets and for eggs. Most people would never even know there were chickens in the neighbors yard if there were a privacy fence between the yards. It's really no different than someone owning dogs or cats.
Judy Gex
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February 12, 2012
>>>>They are ruining what was a great state.

Seriously? Georgia is and always has been an agricultural state. One of the largest industries here is farming of one type or another.

There is a huge difference between a "chicken farm" and someone having 4-6 hens for eggs in their backyard. This Bill is not without restrictions.
Please....
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February 11, 2012
I wonder if it ever occured to Rep. Ehrhart to say "work with your local government to see if they would be willing to change their ordinance" instead of simply trying to prohibit local leaders from, you know, taking care of local issues. It makes for a good story when a "bureaucracy" is perceived to get in the way of what a citizen wants, but I suspect there are plenty of citizens out there that are glad that their aren't 15-20 or more farm aninmals in their neighbors backyard. If Rep. Ehrhart is so concerned about local issues, he should run for local office.

Your story is clever, calling Rep. Ehrhart a clever egg in a story about chickens. Unfortunately, it doesn't accurately reflect the true nature of the issue and the fact that Rep. Ehrhart is nothing but a bully when it comes to the legislative process.
David Staples
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February 11, 2012
"Please...." - some people have tried working with their local government, but have been basically ignored and told to go away. What do you suggest then? Some of us have no inclination to run for local office as we have too much going on already. Chickens are less of a nuisance than dogs, but the county doesn't say people can't own Dachshunds or Dalmatians, now does it? As a chicken owner myself (I'm on more than 2 acres) I can tell you that my chickens are less of a nuisance than the various dogs that wander around this area sans owner or leash. Dogs are actually the reason I have to keep my chickens contained in movable chicken tractors, so I can continue to get fresh eggs instead of providing feathery snacks to the dogs.

I, for one, applaud Rep Ehrhart for fighting for the individual's rights instead of more bureaucracy.

PS - this bill does not affect those who live in a HOA at all. Home Owners Associations can still outlaw chicken ownership if they'd like. This only really affects those who choose to live sans HOA.
Jody Di
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February 11, 2012
We have tried to work with local government. They are not giving citations because people are complaining. Quite the contrary! They are driving around spying in fenced backyards looking for "offenders". My city took a poll last year, hoping the citizens would NOT want chickens. But to their dismay, 78% were in favor of allowing chickens. Did they "work" with what the citizens wanted? Absolutely not. Even considering very restrictive rules, lot sizes, coop requirements, restricting roosters, and numbers of hens and fees. Our city REFUSES to work with us. A small rural town of 7700, dotted with county property, that has cows, pigs, horses, goats, and chickens throughout the town, right down the main street!! You must be a lobbyist that our tax dollars are paying you to write negatives about Rep Ehrhart. Ehrhart said "use common sense!" He has no problem with cities using their nuisance laws to keep chickens in check. Have you seen the backyards of those "offenders"? Had you seen my backyard? We have a clean responsible yard. Persons who want hens, want to protect them, we love them as pets, we cherish their eggs. We don't want to cause trouble with neighbors. We spend thousands of dollars, building fences and fancy coops. Every single one of my neighbors love the chickens.

This is about our right to Life LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness. Our basic rights are being stripped from us. Please don't worry, your neighborhood will not be running amuck filling their backyard with hens. Most Americans rather eat their Egg McMuffins.
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