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COBB: Campaigning to legalize backyard chickens in suburbia | News

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COBB: Campaigning to legalize backyard chickens in suburbia
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MARIETTA, Ga. -- The times, they are a-cluckin', as the high cost of food and the whole back-to-basics culture are creating a lot of secret, suburban-backyard chicken growers.

They know they're breaking local laws.

But a man named Joe Pond, in Cobb County, is emerging as their hero.

It all started with breakfast, last Spring.

"We wanted fresh eggs," Joe Pond told 11Alive's Jon Shirek.

But this time Pond didn't go to the supermarket.

What did he do, instead?

"I built a coop," Pond said.  

He built it in his backyard, in East Cobb County.

Next he said, "I found a place in Dahlonega that sold chicks."

Pond ended up with 14 lovely -- now grown -- ladies, who provide him and his family with two or three eggs a day.

"I thought I would have my chickens, and life would be good," he said. 

But Pond soon found out that even though he owns God's peaceful little half-acre, the zoning department in Cobb County requires chicken owners to have two acres.

"Someone turned me in," Pond said. 

He thinks it was one of his backyard neighbors, who wasn't home when 11Alive News stopped by.

But a crusade was born.

"Out of all this, and communication with backyard chicken enthusiasts, I started the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County," Pond said.

"All over the state, all over the country, yes, there is a backyard chicken movement," he added. "People want to get back to nature, they want organic food."

So, Pond is trying to change the law, with the help of a website www.backyardchix.org, a Facebook page, and signatures on an electronic petition.

He's receiving lots of support from closet chicken owners across the 'burbs, too afraid, until now, to tell anyone.

"I like the fact that my dad's standing up for what he believes in," said Pond's 12-year-old son, Sam.

Sam's 10-year-old sister, Madeline, adores their father for what he's doing.  And she has 14 pets in her care.  "I love them!" she said.  

The county commissioner who represents Pond's East Cobb County district likes the law just as it is.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell told 11Alive's Jon Shirek Thursday that the two-acre minimum assures plenty of space between property owners' livestock and their neighbors.

Pond is undeterred.

"Personally, I don't see a downside.... Chickens aren't for everyone," he said. "But everyone should have the right to own chickens."

He's done his research.

"There's been no documented case anywhere of chickens affecting property value," Pond said. 

"Two dogs produce more fecal matter than 10 chickens. It's all in how you take care of them," he said. "People have a preconceived notion about chickens. They have preconceived prejudice."

Pond is not planning to expand.

"I do not have a rooster," he said. "I don't intend on raising chickens.  I'm not looking to be the next Perdue" or Tyson.

It is fitting, perhaps, that this crusade for liberty and justice on behalf of backyard chicken enthusiasts should rise up from Cobb County, which, after all, is the proud home of the one, the only Big Chicken, one of the most celebrated and beloved landmarks in Metro Atlanta.

The clucking in Pond's backyard is a battle cry, heard 'round the world, now --

"And I love the fact that my pet can make me breakfast!" said a delighted Madeline.

Pond plans to appear before the zoning board on Sept. 14 to argue for a variance. Whatever the decision, it will apply only to him. So he is also preparing to ask the Cobb County Commission in January, when code changes are considered, to change the code to allow everyone to keep chickens in their yards.

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